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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Colossians Chapter 4

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 9, 2019

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

After pointing out in the first verse of this chapter, to masters, the treatment which they were to give their slaves (Col 4:1), the Apostle, in the next place, points out some duties common to all Christians; and first, he exhorts them to the duty of prayer in general, the conditions of which he marks out (Col 4:2), and of prayer for himself in particular, in order that he might be enabled to preach the word of God with success (Col 4:3-4). He enjoins upon them to observe circumspection and wise discretion in their intercourse with the Pagans (Col 4:5-6).

He refers them for information regarding the state of his affairs to Tychicus, the bearer of this Epistle, and to Onesimus, whom he sent to bear him company (Col 4:7-9). He conveys the salutations of several parties who were with him at Rome (Col 4:10-14). He conveys his own salutation also to the Church of Laodicea, and enjoins on them to have the Epistle, which he sent to the Laodiceans, read in their Church at Colossæ: and to have this read in the Church of the Laodiceans (Col 4:15-16). He admonishes Archippus to attend to the ministry entrusted to him, and concludes by subscribing his own salutation with his own hand, and by wishing them to be mindful of his chains (Col 4:17-18).

Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

Col 4:1. Masters, treat your slaves with justice and humanity; knowing that you also have a master in heaven.

“Masters,” &c. Several Commentators say, this verse should be joined to the preceding chapter, with which it is immediately connected in sense, and these make verse 2 the commencement of this chapter. “That which is just,” by supplying them with clothes, food, and other necessaries. “And equal,” by treating them with feelings of kindness and humanity, neither overburdening them with labour, but assigning to each one the duties he can perform; nor exacting the performance of the tasks assigned them with too much rigour, which is expressed—(Ephesians 6:9)—by these words, “forbearing threatenings.” Others, by “equal,” understand showing equal regard for all, so as to give occasion of jealousy to none.

“Knowing that you also have a master in heaven,” a master, too, with whom there is no exception of persons, and who will treat them, as they treat their slaves, whom they should regard as fellows in servitude, and as having the same master in heaven.

Col 4:2. Persevere in prayer, and be vigilant in exercising it with thanksgiving.

In this verse, the Apostle points out a duty common to all Christians, the duty of prayer, the conditions of which he enumerates:—first, it should be persevering and urgent—“be instant,” &c.; secondly, it should be performed with vigilance, attention, and devotion, “watching in it;” thirdly, offered in a spirit of humility and grateful remembrance of past favours, “with thanksgiving.” Gratitude for the past, and confidence of obtaining future favours, are the surest means of rendering our prayers efficacious.

Col 4:3. Pray also for us, that God, removing every obstacle, may enable us to announce boldly and intrepidly the mystery of man’s redemption through Christ (for the preaching of which mystery I am now in chains).

“Would open to us a door of speech,” by which some understand: Would remove all obstructions and impediments to our opening our mouth, and afford us an opportunity “to speak the mystery of Christ,” &c. “By a door of speech,” some understand simply, the mouth; that he would open my mouth to speak and announce openly the mystery of human redemption. (“For which,” &c.), some understand to mean: for which mystery. Others more probably, for announcing which mystery, &c., I am now in chains.

Col 4:4. And that I may announce it in due and proper circumstances, so as to produce the full effect.

Two things are required for a true preacher of the word, to announce wholesome truths, and to do so in proper circumstances, as regards the time, the manner of announcing them, &c., both of which he should beg of God’s Holy Spirit, who alone can open the hearts of the audience, and the mouth of the preacher, with effect.

Col 4:5. Behave with prudence and circumspection in your intercourse with the infidels, who are outside the Church, making good use of the opportunity which the present time affords you.

“Redeeming the time,” by which some understand, making good use of the present opportunity, which you have, of giving the infidels good example to the glory and edification of the church. Others understand them to mean: purchasing an exemption from persecution, by making good use of the present opportunity, which you have, of acting prudently in regard to the unbelievers. The Greek word for “time” καιρὸν will likewise mean, opportunity. The words may also mean: by redoubled exertions, redeeming and making up for the past time, which was squandered so foolishly, and even employed in offending God (see Ephesians 5:16), where the same words are used.

Col 4:6. Let your language be agreeable, calculated to conciliate the good will of those who hear you, but let it be, at the same time, seasoned with wisdom and sound discretion, so that you may be able to accost and answer each person as may be fit and proper.

He tells them that their language should be pleasing and agreeable, not too austere, as it might be otherwise repulsive, and might deter the infidels from embracing the faith. This, however, should not degenerate into levity or dissoluteness, but it should be seasoned with wisdom, of which “salt” is the emblem, so that in their discourse would be accommodated to the dispositions, circumstances, and inclinations of their hearers—a different mode of speaking is to be employed towards different persons.

Col 4:7. Tychicus, my dearest brother, who serves the Lord with me, and is his faithful minister, will inform you of the state of my affairs.
Col 4:8. I have sent him for the purpose of knowing all about you (and of bringing me an account), and also for the purpose of consoling you.

No commentary is offered on these verses beyond the paraphrase

Col 4:9. I have sent him, with Onesimus, a most beloved and faithful brother, who is also a Colossian; they will make known to you all things regarding myself and the faithful, and the progress of the gospel here.

Commentators here admire the prudence of St. Paul: he sends Tychicus to console and teach them; but Onesimus who, from being a fugitive slave, became a Christian, receives no other commission except that of giving them all the necessary information regarding St. Paul. They also admire the humility of the Apostle, this great vessel of election, snatched up to the third heavens, calling slaves by the name of “most beloved and faithful brethren.”

Col 4:10. Aristarchus, who is in prison with me, salutes you; so does Mark, the cousin-german of Barnabas, concerning whom you have received commendatory letters; receive him with kindness, should he come to you.

Aristarchus was a Macedonian of Thessalonica. He suffered much in Asia with the Apostle, and he set out with him, when taken captive, to Rome (Acts 19:21–27). “And Mark, the cousin-german of Barnabas.” This is the John Mark, referred to (Acts 12) on whose account St. Paul and Barnabas separated (Acts 15:39). “Touching whom,” i.e., John Mark, “you received commandments,” or commandatory letters. Barnabas was too well known all over the church to require such: probably it was from Barnabas he received those letters, and St. Paul now adds his own recommendation, to show that he held him in esteem.

Col 4:11. So does Jesus, who is called Justus. These three are Jews, and they alone are wont to assist me in preaching the kingdom of God, and they have been a great source of comfort to me.

No commentary is offered on this verse beyond the paraphrase.

Col 4:12. Epaphras, a Colossian, a servant of Jesus Christ salutes you; he, also, assiduously and anxiously offers up his prayers for you, that you may fully and perfectly fulfil in everything the will of God.

“A servant of Christ Jesus.” The word, “Jesus,” is omitted in the Greek. “Solicitous,” in Greek, αγωνιζομενος, suffering agony.

Col 4:13. For, I bear testimony regarding him, that he has much zeal for you, and for those who are of Laodicea and Hierapolis.

“Much labour.” In Greek, much zeal. “Hieropolis,” a city of Phrygia.

Col 4:14. Luke, the most dear physician, salutes you, and so does Demas.

No commentary is offered on this verse beyond the commentary.

Col 4:15. Salute the brethren who are at Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the Church, which is in his house.

“And Nymphas.” This word is of the masculine gender, as appears from the Greek.

Col 4:16. And when this Epistle shall have been read amongst you, see that it be also read in the Church of the Laodiceans, and see that the Epistle to be sent to you from the Laodiceans be read in your church in turn.

“And when this Epistle shall have been read with you, cause that it be read also in the Church of the Laodiceans, and that you read that which is of the Laodiceans,” or (as in the Greek, τὴν ἐκ Λαοδικείας), which is of Laodicea.

It is a subject of much controversy, whether the Apostle, in the latter words of this verse, refers to an Epistle addressed to him by the Laodiceans, which he wishes to be read at Colossæ, or, to an Epistle written by him to the Laodiceans, but now lost. St. Chrysostom and others are of the former opinion: St. Gregory the Great, St. Thomas of Aquin, St. Anselm, and others, are of the latter. Before we embrace or reject either opinion, it is to be observed, that there is no doubt whatever entertained of the spuriousness of the Epistle published by Sixtus Senensis, under the title of “the Epistle to the Laodiceans,” as it is agreed on all hands, that it is not the Epistle here referred to, supposing the opinion of St. Thomas to be the correct one. This Epistle is given by A’Lapide, in his commentary on this verse. It bears evident internal marks of spuriousness. It is shorter than the Epistle to Philemon, and is nothing more than a collection of expressions used by the Apostle in his several Epistles, particularly in his Epistles to the Ephesians and Philippians, strung together by some impostor. Nor, is there question of an “Epistle to the Laodiceans” in circulation in the days of St. Jerome, which he, as well as Theodoret, assures us, was exploded by all, “ab omnibus exploditur” (Hieron. in Catalog.), and of which the seventh General Council says, Epistolam ad Laodicenses Apostolo adscriptam, patres nostri, tanquam alienam, reprobaverunt. Whether this latter Epistle be the same with the one now in circulation, published by Sixtus Senensis, is a matter of doubt; it is quite certain, however, that the latter is, like the former, spurious and supposititious.

The question, therefore, is: Did the Apostle write an Epistle to the Laodiceans, which must consequently have been lost? The opinion of St. Thomas, who maintains that he did, and that reference is made to the same in this verse, seems the more probable. This is inferred in the first place, from the absence of all probability, that the Laodiceans, who had never seen St. Paul, would have written to him; and even supposing them to have done so, what reason can there be why St. Paul would call on the Colossians to have that letter read in their own church in the same way as this letter of his own to the Colossians was to be read in the Church of Laodicea? The reason given by Estius, viz., that the Epistle of the Laodiceans to St. Paul had contained an illustrious testimony of their faith and charity, which, being made known at Colossæ by the reading of this letter, would stimulate the Colossians to the practice of the same virtues, cannot be considered as having any weight; because, Colossæ and Laodicea being scarcely three leagues asunder, the Colossians needed not to be informed from Italy, whence St. Paul wrote this Epistle, from his prison at Rome, of what was going on in their vicinity among the brethren in the faith.

Again, is it to be supposed, that St. Paul, who expressed so much anxiety for the Laodiceans, in common with the other churches which were never favoured with his personal presence, would omit sending them an Epistle in reply to the one which they are supposed in the other opinion to have sent him, particularly when he had written to so many churches, from which he received no previous communication at all?

Moreover, unless St. Paul had written to the Laodiceans in some form or other, telling them to send their Epistle to be read at Colossæ, as is here enjoined on the Colossians regarding them, they, surely, would not have sent it of their own accord, or, if they had already sent it, of their own accord, what necessity was there for the Apostle to admonish the Colossians to read an Epistle which had been already sent for that purpose. Hence, in any supposition, the Apostle must have written an Epistle to the Laodiceans. The Greek text, then, upon which the advocates of the opposite opinion chiefly rely, that from Laodicea, must mean, “the Epistle (to be sent you) from Laodicea.” The evident motive of the Apostle’s injunction was this: Laodicea and Colossæ were neighbouring cities, troubled by the same false teachers. It is likely, that in his Epistle to the Laodiceans, the Apostle treated of matters of which he made no mention in that addressed to the Colossians, or, at least, that he had treated of the same matter differently in both. Hence, by having the two Epistles read in both churches, the faithful of each would have a more complete exposition of faith and morals, and stronger motives for perseverance in the faith, and in the performance of good works. And the fact of the Apostle telling the Colossians to have the Epistle of the Laodiceans read in their church, in the same way as this was to be read in the church of the Laodiceans, would evidently imply that the reading of both would be attended with results equally beneficial, which could hardly be said, if there were question in one case, of an Epistle, written by the Laodiceans to him. These are the reasons for the opinion of St. Thomas, as given by Mauduit. It must, however, be admitted, that the opinion of St. Chrysostom is the more common with both ancient and modern Expositors of SS. Scripture.

Col 4:17. And say to Archippus, attend to the ministry, which thou hast received from the Lord, that thou mayest diligently fulfil it.
Col 4:18. I subscribe my own salutation with my own hand. Be mindful of my chains, so as to pray for me, and receive strength and courage after my example. Grace be with you. Amen.

No commentary is offered on these verses beyond the paraphrase.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Colossians Chapter 3

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 9, 2019

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

The Apostle had made a twofold assertion in the preceding chapter (Col 2:12-13), viz., that the Colossians were buried with Christ in baptism, and had also risen with him. This twofold assertion he makes the ground of a twofold conclusion. Having already pointed out the conclusion to be drawn from their death in baptism from the preceding chapter (Col 2:20), he points out in this, the moral conclusion to be drawn from their spiritual resurrection, viz., that they should devote their entire thoughts to the things of heaven, and despise the things of earth (Col 3:1-2). They should despise earthly things, because dead to them, and love heavenly things, because raised to a heavenly life (Col 3:3). He points out the glory which is to be the reward of this life of sanctity (Col 3:4). In order to secure this heavenly glory, they should, therefore, mortify all the members of the old man of sin, all the vicious inclinations of the flesh, the heart, or the tongue, in one word, they should strip themselves of the old man with his deeds (Col 3:5–9).

They should, after putting off the old man, put on the new with all his virtues, which relates to God, their neighbour, and themselves. With reference to God, they should conform to his image, by being renewed in the knowledge and love of him, in which spiritual renovation there is no distinction whatever of persons, or, conditions in life recognised by the Lord (Col 3:10-11). With reference to their neighbour, they should exhibit the new man in the most tender feelings of mercy—in bearing with his infirmities, in pardoning offences, and above all, in cultivating charity and peace (Col 3:12–15). With reference to the duties they owed themselves, they should, by sedulous attention to the word of God, fill their minds with true wisdom; they should express their inward joy and preserve spiritual unction, by piously singing canticles and spiritual songs, rendering thanks to God, and referring all their actions to his glory through Christ (Col 3:15-17).

He concludes by pointing out to several parties—viz., wives, children, and slaves, the duties of obedience which devolve upon them; while on husbands, parents, and masters, he enjoins also their correlative and reciprocal obligations (Col 3:18-25).

Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

Col 3:1. Since, therefore, by baptism you have risen with Christ to a spiritual resurrection, seek and love the things that are above, that appertain to heaven, where Christ, after rising from the dead, is sitting at the right hand of God.
Col 3:2. Have your minds and your thoughts fixed upon the things of heaven and not upon the things on earth.

“If you be risen,” means: whereas, you are risen with Christ. In this verse, the Apostle draws his moral conclusion from their spiritual resurrection out of the grave of sin, of which their emersion from the waters of baptism was a type. It is this: that they should bestow their entire care and affections, and all their thoughts, on the things of heaven.

“Where Christ is sitting on the right hand,” &c. These words simply mean, that whereas Christ, as God, is equal to the Father; as man, he holds the most honourable place in heaven, being next to God in honour and glory, which is expressed by the Scripture, in accommodation to human conceptions, in the words—“Sitteth at the right hand of God.”

Col 3:3. You should have no concern about earthly things on the contrary, you should undervalue them, because you renounced all connection with them in baptism. But you should regard heavenly things, because by baptism you have received a heavenly life—a life now indeed unperceived by men, and hidden with Christ in God; but, it shall be seen at a future day.

In the foregoing verses, the Apostle made two assertions—viz., that the heavenly things were to be cared for, and the earthly, undervalued. He now assigns a reason for both. The immersion practised in baptism was a type of their burial, and consequently death to sin and the passions, which it effected at the same time, after the model of Christ’s death and burial. They, therefore, should have no more connexion with “the things upon the earth,” i.e., either the “elements of this world,” or the vices of the earth, which he enumerates (Col 3:5), or perhaps both, than the living have with the dead.—Secondly, the emersion from the waters of baptism was a type of their spiritual life and resurrection, which it also effected, after the model of Christ’s resurrection from the grave; hence, they should mind the things of heaven. But this spiritual life received by them in baptism is “hidden” from the eyes of worldlings “with Christ in God;” it shall, however, be manifested when Christ shall come to judge the world. How calculated are not these words of the Apostle to stimulate us to labour and suffer for eternal life, and have our thoughts fixed on heaven! We are called to eternal life; to the things that are above: our final resting-place, our country is heaven, we are enrolled, as citizens of heaven, where our fellow-citizens are waiting for us. Why, then, keep our thoughts fixed on this earth, this place of passage!—why, mere travellers, centre our affections on this inn, in which we are for a short time to reside, during the time that we are tending towards the lasting habitation, reserved for us in the vast and magnificent palaces of the King of Glory? “O Israel! how great is the house of God, and how vast the place of his possessions.”—(Baruch 3:24). How frequently in our passage through life, during our sojourn in this land of banishment, should we not look forward to our lasting home, our true country in eternity, to which every moment brings us nearer, and how earnestly should we not labour to secure it!

Col 3:4. When Christ, in whom and of whom we hold this spiritual life, shall appear and shall manifest his glory, then, you shall appear glorious with him, and then this life, which is now hidden, shall be conspicuous to all.

Christ is both the efficient—the meritorious—the exemplary—and the final cause of our life of grace here, and of glory hereafter, and when he shall come to judge the world, then we shall appear glorious like him. “Your life.” In Greek, our life. The Vulgate is, however, supported by many manuscripts and Fathers, among the rest, by Saint Chrysostom.

Col 3:5. Mortify, therefore, the members, the depraved and wicked inclinations of your earthly and sinful man, which are, fornications, uncleanness, obscene passion, all wicked desires, and especially avarice, which is the worship of idols.

In order to appear one day thus glorious, “mortify your members which are upon earth.” In his Epistle to the Romans, the Apostle calls all sins taken collectively, the “body of sin” (Rom 6:6), and verse 11 of the preceding chapter of this Epistle (Col 2:11), “the body (of the sins) of the flesh,” as also “the old man,” because as man, or the body of man, consists of different members; so, is the body of sin made up of different kinds of sin, as of so many members. He calls them “upon the earth,” because they fix our desires on earth, and withdraw us more from God. To the same he refers in Col 3:2:—“Not the things that are on the earth.” “Uncleanness,” all kinds of unclean acts; “lust,” every kind of abominable passion; … “avarice.” There is the same diversity of opinion regarding the meaning of this word here as in the Epistle to the Ephesians 5:6.

Col 3:6. On account of which crimes the heavy anger and vengeance of God is in store for, and will at a future day be inflicted on, those who have no faith and disobeys the commands of God, prohibiting such crimes.

See Ephesians 5:6.

Col 3:7. Which crimes you also committed formerly, when you lived in the habitual indulgence of your wicked passions.

“Walked,” and “lived,” differ in this, that the former refers to acts; the latter, to the habitual commission of such sins.

Col 3:8. But now lay aside not only these more grievous crimes, but also these others of lesser enormity, which you have also committed—viz., all angry excitement, all desires of revenge, all evil dispositions to injure your neighbour, all reproachful and insulting language towards him, all obscene and immodest expressions.

“But now lay you also away;” lay aside the following sins of lesser enormity, as well as the preceding more grievous ones; or “also,” may mean, lay aside these other sins in which you also lived. Both meanings are united in the Paraphrase … “Blasphemy,” here means, insulting and opprobrious language towards our neighbour. “Blasphemy,” strictly speaking, which is committed against God, is a most grievous crime, and would have been classed with the preceding.

Col 3:9. Lay aside all lies in your language, and all fraud in your dealings with one another. Entirely put off the old man with his wicked deeds.

Lay aside all lying in your words, all frauds and circumvention in your dealings with each other. “Stripping yourselves of the old man with his deeds.” In the Greek, ἀπεκδυσάμενοι, having stripped yourselves, &c., which may mean, cast away the foregoing vices which are members of the old man of sin whom you have put away at your baptism; or, as in Paraphrase, it may be the commencement of a new sentence, thus:—In a word, I exhort you to put off the old man with his acts.

Col 3:10. And put on the new man with his virtues, I say, that new man, who by the knowledge of revealed mysteries and of spiritual things, is renewed according to the image of God his Creator.

“And putting on the new.” There is the same diversity is the Greek in this as well as in the preceding verse—“And having put on the new.” “Who is renewed into knowledge,” i.e., which new man receives a new existence, after the image of God, his Creator; for, as man was naturally created after the likeness and image of God, which consisted in his intellect and will; so, in his second birth, or creation by grace, he is formed after the image and likeness of God, which image of grace consists in sanctity and justice.—(Eph 4:24). For the meaning of “old man” and “new man,” and “putting on” the one, and “putting off” the other.—(See Eph 4:22–25)

Col 3:11. In which affair of spiritual renovation, there is no distinction of Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, of barbarian or—of worse than barbarian—of Scythian, of slave, or freeman, but Christ confers all Christian blessings, grace, sanctification, &c., on every description of men without distinction.

“Where,” i.e., in which affair of spiritual renovation, or, in which new man, there is no regard paid to the circumstances of birth, nation, dignity, &c.; because Christ is all in all; he is justice, sanctity, and everything good in all who are thus renewed. The only thing regarded in it is, how far you have communicated with Christ. In this new man, the circumstances of country and condition are confounded; in him Christ alone is to be attended to. “Nor Scythian;” the most barbarous of the barbarians. The antithesis between “Scythian” and “barbarian,” is not between barbarism and civilization, but between a lesser and greater degree of barbarism—the Scythians being reputed, in the days of St. Paul, the greatest barbarians. Others maintain the reverse, and contend that the Scythians were the most polished and civilized among ancient peoples. In this latter opinion, the force of the atithesis is quite clear.

Col 3:12. Wherefore, as men elected by God, sanctified by Christ, and loved by him from eternity—put on the most lively feelings of compassion for your brethren, gentleness and sweetness of disposition, humility, modesty, patience.

As Christ alone is to be considered in this new man, the Apostle shows the duties they owe each other, and the acts of the new man whom he wishes them to put on. “The bowels,” i.e., the most tender feelings “of mercy.” In Greek, of mercies. The Vulgate is, however, generally adopted by critics.

Col 3:13. Bearing with each other’s weakness and imperfections, pardoning and remitting to each other the injuries which you may have mutually to sustain, after the example of God, who has pardoned us our manifold sins and transgressions against him.

No commentary is offered on this verse beyond the paraphrase.

Col 3:14. But above all things, have charity or love for one another, which is the most perfect bond of union.

“Which is the bond of perfection,” i.e., the most perfect bond of union. All other bonds of human society are imperfect and easily broken by the slightest provocation; charity is eternal and indissoluble.

Col 3:15. And may the peace of God, to which you were called, when you became one body, victoriously exult in your hearts, and be ye grateful for the past benefits of God.

“Of Christ.” In Greek, of God. “Rejoice.” The Greek word for which, βραβευέτω, means either to gain the prize of victory, or to award it; in the former acceptation, it refers to the persons engaged in the contest; in the latter, to the judges, who are to decide the struggle and award the prize. Here, then, according to this twofold acceptation, the words may mean:—May the peace which Christ brought from heaven, and to which the unity of the Church, of which we are members, obliges us, obtain the victory over all the adverse passions in your hearts. This is the more probable meaning. They may also mean: In all your differences may the decision be, not according to the dictates of passion, but of the peace of God. “Be ye thankful,” besides the meaning in the Paraphrase, may also mean, according to some Expositors—Be ye kind, courteous, and civil to one another; as this contributes much to peace. The Greek word, εὐχάριστοι, will admit this latter meaning, which also accords with the context.

Col 3:16. Let the doctrine of Christ permanently reside in you, so as that you may be filled with the abundance of all spiritual wisdom, teaching and instructing each other in psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles, singing the praises of God with joyous and grateful hearts.

He says that the doctrine and gospel of Christ should be engraved on our hearts, so as to dwell there and fill us with the abundance of true wisdom, which we may dispense to others. Hence, the word of God is to be read, not with hurry or precipitancy, but with reflection and meditation on its sacred truths, so as that it may “dwell” in us, and not rarely, but frequently, “abundantly.” Would to God, the meditation on the SS. Scriptures was substituted in place of those light and frivolous works of fancy, which poison and corrupt the mind! “Teaching … in Psalms,” &c. See thr Epistle to the Ephesians 5:19-20. “Singing in grace,” may either mean with thanksgiving, or in an agreeable, pleasing manner, so as to excite feelings of devotion “in your hearts.” In Greek, in your heart.

Col 3:17. Direct all your words and actions to the glory of God, invoking the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and rendering thanks to God the Father through him.

To God.” In Greek, to the Lord. This verse contains a negative precept prohibiting us from offering our actions to God through angels, according to the corrupt notions of the heretics, who prefer them to Christ, as has been already explained, or from giving thanks through them, and indirectly commanding us to do so through Christ. He is the meritorious cause of the benefits which we enjoy, and through Him thanks should be given; it also contains a positive precept of referring our actions, occasionally, by a direct intention to God. The practice of referring them as frequently as possible is very commendable. For the rest—see 1 Cor 10:31.

Col 3:18. Women, be subject to your husbands, according to the will of God, and as far as the law of Christ permits.

“To your husbands.” In the Greek, to your (own) husbands, as if to withdraw their attention from any other men.

Col 3:19. Husbands, love your wives, and be neither morose towards them, nor provoking them to bitterness.

No commentary is offered for this verse beyond the paraphrase.

Col 3:20. Children, obey your parents in all things; for such is the good will and pleasure of God.

“In all things,” not prohibited by the law of God. “For this is well pleasing to the Lord,” that is, this is pleasing to God as being his own precept.—(See Epistle to the Ephesians, chapter 6)

Col 3:21. And parents, do not, by undue and untimely severity, provoke to anger or exasperate the minds of your children, lest, falling into despondency, they cease to perform anything good.

No commentary is offered for this verse beyond the paraphrase.

Col 3:22. Servants, obey your earthly masters in all things lawful, not merely serving to please them when they are present and their eyes are fixed upon you, as those do who merely wish to please men, but with good faith, with a sincere and upright mind, like men fearing God, whose eye is always upon us, and who sees the innermost thoughts of the heart.

He here addresses slaves, or those engaged in a state of slavery.—See Ephes. 6 where he uses the same forms of expression employed by him in this passage.

Col 3:23. Whatever you do, perform it with cheerfulness, as if it were the Lord and not men you were serving.

No commentary is offered in this verse beyond the paraphrase.

Col 3:24. Knowing from the unerring principles of your faith, that you shall receive a surpassing great reward, the inheritance of eternal life; therefore, in serving your masters, offer the services to Christ the Lord, who will bestow on you the recompense of eternal life.

“The reward of inheritance.” On this earth, slaves receive but a very trifling recompense from their earthly masters—the inheritance is reserved for the children. The Apostle, in order to render the slaves more prompt and willing in the performance of their duties, promises them, on the part of their heavenly father, an abundant reward, even the eternal, undying inheritance of children. “Serve ye the Lord Christ;” for which we have in the Greek, for, ye serve the Lord Christ, as if assigning a reason why they should receive this eternal recompense. They would receive it, because in serving their temporal masters in a pious and Christian manner, they were serving Christ himself. The Vulgate reading in the imperative is well supported by manuscripts and versions.

Col 3:25. But whosoever does an injury, whether it be the slave who is unfaithful to his master, or the master who is harsh and cruel towards his slave, will receive the punishment of his unjust conduct. For, God regards not the face or person of any man.

“For he that doth wrong.” In Greek, but he that doth wrong. Some understand this of the faithless slave; others, of the harsh masters; it may be better, however, understand it of both. “And there is no respect of persons with God.” God will not regard the person of the master any more than that of the slave; he will reward or punish both, according to their deserts. The words, “with God,” are not in the Greek: they are, however, found in several ancient manuscripts and versions.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Colossians Chapter 2

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 9, 2019

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

The Apostle commences this chapter by expressing his anxious solicitude for the Colossians, as also the object of this solicitude, which was to afford them the consolation that would result from their close union in the bonds of charity, and their perfect knowledge of the leading truths of Christian faith (Col 2:1-2).

He next cautions them against the deceitful wiles of the false teachers, both Gentiles and Judaizers. Against the former, he shows that Christ is the great fountain of all knowledge (Col 2:3.) He encourages the Colossians to guard against their false reasoning, and by closely adhering to Christ, to persevere in the faith and Christian life, which they had embraced (Col 2:4–8). He points out the means which the Gnostics would employ to seduce them from the faith, viz., false and erroneous philosophy, opposed to the true principles of Christian faith. These false principles of Pagan philosophy, they should reject, and have recourse to Christ, in whom, as God, was eminently contained all knowledge, who is also the ruler of all the hosts of angels, and, therefore, to be adored before them (Col 2:8–10). Against the Jewish zealots, who proclaimed the necessity of circumcision, and the legal ceremonies, he reminds the Colossians that the circumcision which they received in baptism as far surpassed that of the Jews, as the reality exceeds the sign (Col 2:11-12).

He ascends to the source of their spiritual blessings, viz., redemption through Christ, and graphically describes the mode in which redemption was accomplished, and the triumph which Christ achieved over the whole hosts of demons, driving them before his triumphal car, as so many trophies of victory (Col 2:13-15). From the foregoing he infers, that the Colossians should pay attention neither to the Judaizers, who endeavoured to turn them aside from these real blessings to vain, empty shadows (Col 2:16-17), nor to the Simonians or Gnostics, who encouraged the false worship of angels (Col 2:18)—and adhered not to Christ, the head of the Church, from whom she derived all graces (Col 2:19). He concludes the chapter, by mildly rebuking the Colossians for attending to the false teaching of either the Gnostics or Judaizers (Col 2:20-23).

Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

Col 2:1. For, I wish to make known to you my anxiety and solicitude for you and the people of Laodicea, and for all others, who, as well as you, have never seen me.

“For” is a connecting link between this and the last verse of the preceding chapter, as if he said: I have made mention of my labours and exertions, because I wish you to know the struggle I sustain for you.

“What manner of care.” In Greek, ἀγῶνα, what a struggle or contest. From this verse, it is commonly inferred that St. Paul, although he visited some part of Phrygia, had never been at Colossæ. Theodoret, however, comes to an opposite conclusion; but, his inference is very improbable.

Col 2:2. The object of my labours, and anxious solicitude both for you and them is, that your hearts may be filled with spiritual consolation, having been firmly united by the bond of charity, and furnished with the most perfect and valuable knowledge, and firm persuasion regarding those truths, that appertain to the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The end and object of his anxiety was, to procure for them true spiritual consolation, which is acquired by being united in charity (for “instructed in charity,” the Greek is, συνβιβασθεντων, united, compacted, as joints are in a body); and also, by being introduced to, or furnished with, “all riches of fulness of understanding,” i.e., the fullest and most perfect knowledge and persuasion. The words, furnished with, introduced to, or some such expression, must be understood, to make full and perfect sense; it is implied in the foregoing Greek participle. “Unto the knowledge of the mystery of God the Father,” who is the principle of the Godhead, one in nature, and three in persons; “and of Jesus Christ;” in other words, regarding the two grand, fundamental mysteries of the Trinity and Incarnation—the two great points in which the Gnostics wished to corrupt the faith of the Colossians. charity and perfect knowledge are means to obtain consolation. “Of God the Father,” &c. In Greek, of God and of the Father, and of Christ.

Col 2:3. In whom—the man God—are concealed, in such a way as never to be communicated to creatures, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

“In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” “In whom,” as God and man. As God, his knowledge is infinite; and as man, he has the most perfect finite knowledge. “Are hid;” hid (ἀπόκρυφοι), is an adjective. “All the treasures” express the great abundance of this knowledge, &c. Nothing can escape him. In him they are “hid.” No creature can fully know them. The finite share which we are capable of comprehending, is known to us from revelation. From Christ, then, is to be obtained all that knowledge of which the Gnostics boasted, as their name implies, and for which they wished that recourse should be had to other sources than Christ.

Col 2:4. Now, I make mention of this great wisdom and knowledge of Christ, as a caution to you not to be deceived by the false and persuasive reasonings of others, who affect wisdom and knowledge.

The Apostle now enters on the object of the Epistle, viz., to guard them against the imposing reasoning of the Gnostics. “Deceive,” in Greek, παραλονιζηται, means, to deceive by false reasoning, or sophistry. “Loftiness of words,” in Greek, πιθανολογια, plausible or smooth language.

Col 2:5. For, though personally absent, still, I am present with you in heart and soul, rejoicing, when I see your orderly conduct, and the firmness and constancy of your faith in Christ Jesus.

He is present in “spirit,” by his anxiety and Apostolic care in watching over their faith, and spiritual interests. “Absent in body,” &c. Similar is the form of words (1 Cor 5:3).

Col 2:6. As, then, you have been instructed in Christ Jesus; so persevere in his doctrine and in the observance of his precepts;

Jesus Christ the Lord.” In Greek, Christ Jesus the Lord. He tells them to persevere in the faith of Christ, taught them by Epaphras, at their conversion.

Col 2:7. Having been engrafted on him as the stock and root, and reared on him as the foundation, and confirmed in the faith which you have learned; nay, advancing in grace and faith, with thanksgiving for so many distinguished favours.

Under a twofold similitude of a tree, and of an edifree, the Apostle represents their close connexion with Christ. He is the foundation: they, the superstructure, He is the root, and the stock; they, the tree or branches. This verse is connected with the preceding, thus: persevere in his doctrine, &c., having been ingrafted on him, &c., so as to increase and advance in faith and grace with thanksgiving.

“Abounding in him.” In Greek, abounding in it. The Vulgate reading is found in some of the chief manuscripts.

Col 2:8. (Since, then, by ceasing to be in connexion with Christ, you would be as so many trees without roots, edifices without foundations); Take care, lest any person deceive you, and rob you of your faith, by the display of false philosophy, which is no better than empty fallacy, calculated to impose upon us; the teachings of which are not derived from the authority of God, but founded on the corrupt and false opinions of men, and grounded on elementary principles either false in themselves, or falsely applied, and altogether at variance with the doctrine of Christ, and, therefore, to be rejected.

The philosophy condemned here by the Apostle is not the science of philosophy, the knowledge of human things derived, by legitimate reasoning, from certain fixed principles; he only condemns the false and erroneous systems of Pagan philosophy, wherein were contained the most monstrous errors in matters appertaining to God and religion. It was a philosophy which, in reference to religion, was nothing but “vain deceit,” which inculcated systems of belief, founded only on the corrupt inventions of men, transmitted from generation to generation; founded on elementary axioms, either false or falsely applied, and outstripping the proper limits to which they could be applied. See, for example, the abuse which they made of the logical axiom, quæ sunt eadem uni tertio, sunt eadem inter se, in reference to the mystery of the Trinity. See, also, the moral axiom current with the philosophers, expedit populos decipi in negotio religionis. The “elements of the world,” may, according to some, refer to the carnal outward precepts of the ceremonial law of the Jews, in which sense, the word “elements” is employed, chapter in the Epistle to the Galatians 4:3; in this interpretation, he is here alluding, partly, to the errors of the Judaizantes.

“But not according to Christ.” In this, he condemns the system of religion introduced by the Gnostics and Judaizantes; because, they were opposed to the purity of the gospel.

“Beware lest any man cheat you.” The Greek for “cheat,” συλαγωγων, means, to despoil, or lead away captive.

Col 2:9. Let no one seduce you from Christ: for, in him, the entire plenitude of the Godhead dwells, really and substantially, or personally, in a manner somewhat resembling the dwelling of the soul in the body.

The Apostle assigns the reason, why they should follow Christ, as teacher, in preference to those opposed to him, viz., because he is God: and hence, in him are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He adds this rather than repeat the third verse, because it is the truth announced in this verse, viz., that Christ is God, which verifies verse 3. Hence, no other is to be heard before him. “Corporally,” i.e., personally. The divine Person has really assumed the human nature of Christ, so that the divine Person is alone the Person of this perfect humanity.

Col 2:10. And you are abundantly filled by him with all gifts and knowledge necessary for salvation without recurring to the law of Moses or the philosophy of the Gnostics. And he is the head, the ruler and master of all the angels, and hence, to be adored in preference to them.

“Who is the head of all principality and power.” He is the head of all the good angels, represented by the two orders referred to, inasmuch as he is their Lord, and rules them, to promote their happiness. This is added by the Apostle in opposition to the Gnostics, who inculcated the adoration of angels. This verse is more fully expressed (Ephesians, 1).

Col 2:11. In whom, also, you have received circumcision, not like the Jewish circumcision, made by hands consisting merely in taking away the foreskin from the body of the flesh, but a spiritual circumcision, consisting in the destruction of sin, and of sinful passions, of which the circumcision among the Jews was but a mere type or figure.

He cautions them against the Jewish zealots, who endeavoured to superadd the rite of circumcision to the Christian religion, and says, we have a circumcision which as far surpasses that in use among the Jews, as the reality, or thing signified, exceeds the sign and the figure. In the Greek, the particle, “but,” is omitted, and the word “sins,” added to the preceding clause, thus: in despoiling of the body (of the sins) of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ; a reading, according to which, the entire verse is understood without any antithesis of the circumcision of Christ, thus: by whom you were circumcised with a circumcision not made by hands, which consists in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, in other words, in entirely laying aside the old man of sin, which is the circumcision of Christ, and not of Moses. This is a very probable interpretation.

Col 2:12. You received this spiritual Christian circumcision, when in receiving baptism you were buried, and consequently dead to your sins, with Christ, in which baptism also, while emerging from its waters, you rose to a new spiritual life of grace, of which spiritual resurrection, faith in the omnipotence of him who raised Christ from the dead is required as a necessary condition.

He shows how this circumcision is effected by baptism. The immersion in baptism—the form, in which it was conferred in the time of the Apostle—is a type of our burial, and consequently of our death to sin, which death to sin it also operates as well as signifies; and the emersion from the waters of baptism is also a type of our spiritual resurrection to a life of grace, which resurrection it also effects, requiring as a condition, faith in the omnipotence of him who raised Christ from the dead.

Col 2:13. And you, when dead in your sins, both actual and original, together with the passions flowing from original sin, were raised by him to spiritual life, by an effort of the same power by which he raised Christ from the dead, pardoning all your sins, through his merits.

When they were dead in their actual and original sins as well as in all the evils flowing from original sin, he raised them spiritually, with Christ, and made them desert their former vicious ways, and live to God, “and the uncircumcision of your flesh,” the sign, for the thing signified, the foreskin, for original sin, and the evils following from it.

Col 2:14. Having first blotted out and abolished the sentence of eternal death, which had been recorded against us all, by the decree of God after the sin of Adam, and the same sentence he took out of the way and annulled, by nailing it to his cross, i.e., destroying it, by the atonement and satisfaction which he made on the cross.

In this verse, some Expositors say, there is reference to the abolition of the obligation which every Jew had contracted to observe the law of Moses. Hence, by “handwriting” they understood the liability to observe “the decree,” or Mosaic law. Others, following the Greek reading, which is, τοῖς δόγμασιν, by decrees, understood it to have the same meaning that it has in the passage to the Ephesians 2:15, “the law of commandments in decrees,” which refers to the abolition of the ceremonies of the Mosaic law, and the substituting of “the decrees,” or precepts of the Christian faith, in their stead. This interpretation, however, does not well accord with the next verse; for, how can it follow from his abolishing the Mosaic ceremonial law, that he was “despoiling principalities,” &c.? (Col 2:15). Besides, the Mosaic law is never called a “decree;” and if we desert the Vulgate reading, to which the Ethiopic version is conformable, and read, “by decrees,” we must confine it to the Jews; whereas, it is clear that the Apostle refers to all, by saying, “you,” Col 2:13, “us,” this verse. Hence, the common interpretation is far the more probable, which makes “handwriting” refer to the liability to eternal death pronounced against us by the “decree” of God after the sin of Adam, of which, by an unsearchable judgment of God, we were all made sharers; and this liability or sentence is called “a handwriting,” either because we ourselves, by actual sin, subscribed to the justice of this sentence of punishment, or probably, to signify that it is as certain against us as is the debt against the debtor, whose bond or note of hand is in the possession of the creditors. “Fastening it to the cross;” this refers to the ancient custom of annulling bonds or covenants, by driving a nail through them. Hence, the words may be translated, driving a nail through it by his cross, i.e., by the satisfaction made on the cross. All this, therefore, refers to the atonement which Christ made for the sins of all mankind, by his death on the cross.

Col 2:15. And stripping the entire host of infernal spirits, who were to be the executioners in carrying out this decree, of the dominion and power they had over man, he exposed them publicly to the gaze and derision of men and angels, triumphing over them thus prostrate and vanquished, by his own power.

These words are very expressive of Christ’s triumph over his prostrate enemies; he first stripped them of the power which they had over mankind, during the time that this sentence of death was hanging over their heads. He afterwards publicly exposed them to derision, dragging them after his triumphal car, or rather driving them before it, as so many trophies of victory. This public exposure of the devils is now made before angels and men, who see it by faith; but it will be evidently seen, on the great day of judgment. The two orders, of “principalities” and “powers,” are put for all the orders of demons. There is but one word in the Greek corresponding with the words “confidently” and “open show,” εν παρρησια. The word, however, bears both the significations, given to it in our English version, after the Vulgate.

Col 2:16. Such, therefore, being the blessings purchased for you by Christ, have no fears about being condemned by any one for neglecting the Mosaic ceremonies, either in matters appertaining to meat or drink, whether clean or unclean, or in reference to festival days, whether annual, monthly, or weekly.

Having shown the excellence of our baptism beyond circumcision, and having pointed out the cause of its efficacy, viz., the redemption of Christ, the Apostle resumes the subject of the Mosaic rites, and cautions the Colossians against practising them. “In respect of,” i.e., in reference to, or in the matter of, a “festival day,” &c., i.e., festival days observed among the Jews, in compliance with the ceremonial law of Moses.

Col 2:17. For, all these were but mere shadows of future things, and the reality, of which they were the figures, or rather, the body, of which they were the shadows, is Christ. Having, then, the reality, what need have we to preserve the shadows?

No commentary beyond the paraphrase is offered for this verse.

Col 2:18. Be not defrauded of the prize, for which you are striving, by any one wishing to inculcate prostrate humiliations before the angels and the religious adoration of them, intermeddling in things which he hath not seen, or pretending to visions and knowledge beyond his reach; inflated and puffed up without any cause or grounds for it, by his own carnal conceptions and ideas, as if they were revealed by God.

“Let no man seduce you.” In the Greek it is, καταβραβευέτω, let no man defraud you of the prize, or reward, for which you are striving. “Willing;” this word is connected, by some, with the foregoing word, “seduce,” thus: let no man seduce you, however anxiously and studiously he may exert himself for that purpose. Others more probably connect it with the following words, “humility and the religion of angels,” i.e., affecting humility, or, wishing to make it appear, that he is consulting for the dignity of Christ, by denying that redemption came through him; and, hence, wishing that you should adore, and have recourse to angels. This is the interpretation given of the passage by those who maintain that the error which St. Paul is combating in this Epistle, is the error of those heretics who asserted that it was beneath Christ to undertake the office of mediator and redeemer; and hence, they assigned this office to angels. It would not appear, however, that this opinion is borne out by the scope and context of the Apostle. On the contrary, it would seem from the Apostle’s proving in this, as well as in some of his other Epistles, the superior excellence of Christ, that his arguments are entirely directed against the class of heretics, who lowered the dignity of Christ too much, by placing the angels above him. It is, therefore, more likely, that the Apostle here refers to the errors of the Platonists, who extolled the angels above Christ. They believed in the existence of a sort of minor gods or angels, who, according to them, created the world, inspired the prophets of old, purified and redeemed the souls of men; one of these angels gave the law on Sinai, and was the God of the Hebrews. This latter error was maintained by Cerinthus; he also held, that at the time of the passion, the Son of God left the son of Mary and Joseph, and returned to heaven. Hence, they asserted that Christ was unworthy of being the mediator between God and man; and that this office, therefore, devolved on the angels, who should be adored by a more perfect and excellent rite than was due to Christ. [Ireneus, Theodoret, and Epiphanius record these errors of Cerinthus in their dissertations on Heresies.] That this was the class of heretics to whom the Apostle here refers, seems very likely, if it be borne in mind that at Laodicea, which was contiguous to Colossæ, there was a sect who propounded such doctrines, which were condemned, in the 35th canon of the Council of Laodicea. The words, then, mean, as in Paraphrase; inculcating humble prostrations before angels, and adoring them. “Walking in things,” &c., prying into and intermeddling in things which they could not know, and pretending to visions beyond their reach.

Objection.—How reconcile this with the Catholic practice of worshipping and invoking angels?

Resp.—There is no necessity for reconciling it, if we look to what the Catholic practice is. The worship paid by Catholics to angels is an inferior worship, cultus duliæ, which tends to the glory of God, in the same way, as the civil respect shown a viceroy tends to the honour of the sovereign, whom he represents. But, we never pay them the supreme worship, or, as it is termed, cultus latriæ, due to God alone. Now, in this passage, the Apostle manifestly contemplates the worship being paid to them which robs God of his glory, as appears from the entire context, and particularly from the words of the following verse—“not holding the head.”

Col 2:19. Not adhering to the head of the Church, Christ, from which the entire body of the Church, or of the faithful, supplied with life and animation, and compactly joined and fitted together, by the various joints, sinews, and arteries, grows with a divine increase.

“Not holding the head.” From this it appears clear that they rejected the true worship of God. From whom, as head, the entire body of the faithful were furnished with life and animation (of course, in the mystical body, he refers to the graces of Christ).—See Epistle to the Ephesians 4:14.

Col 2:20. If, then, by becoming Christians, you have altogether renounced all connexion whatever with the errors of Pagan philosophy, or, with the heavy and intolerable yoke of the Mosaic ceremonial precepts, why should you any longer submit to have these precepts taught you, and dictated to you, as if you were still to live up to such elementary principles?

“The elements of this world,” with which they now hold no more connexion than the living hold with the dead, are understood by some of the errors of Paganism; by others, of the precepts of the ceremonial law of the Jews. “Why do you decree,” may also mean, why are you decreed, i.e., why do you submit to be taught these precepts, as if you were to live according to them, and not according to the doctrine of Christ? The Greek word for “decree,” δογματιζεσθε, will admit of either an active or passive signification. It may mean either to dogmatize, or to be dogmatized.

Col 2:21. Such are, for instance, do not touch, or taste, certain meats or drinks, and have nothing to do with marriage.

He probably refers to the errors, of which he treats in his Epistle to Timothy, “forbidding to marry, to abstain from meats,” (1 Tim 4:3). We know, that some of the Gnostics held that certain meats were in se bad; also that marriage was in se evil.

Col 2:22. All such precepts as these serve only, in use, to the destruction of those who adopt them, having been enacted according to the doctrines and ordinances of men.

This refers to the precepts, verse 21. The Apostle is here condemning those ordinances in reference to religion, that have no authority from God, or from the rulers of his Church—that are purely human, and, as in the present case, opposed to the commands of God. He regards either the ceremonial law of the Jews or the errors of the Platonists; but he by no means condemns the salutary laws of God’s Church, of whose authority he is so jealous, “qui vos audit, me audit.”

Col 2:23. Such ordinances have, indeed, the appearance of true wisdom, as manifested in arbitrary, self-imposed practices of devotion—practices that have not the sanction of superior authority—in a spurious, false humility, which is but the sign of pride; in macerations of the flesh both unmeaning and excessive, and in the subtraction of the just refection and proper sustenance of the body.

The Apostle by no means condemns the fasting prescribed by the Church, and which Christ our Lord has sanctioned, “but you when you fast,” &c.—(Matt. 6:17). Our fasts are regulated by prudence; and instead of being commanded, fasting is prohibited, whenever it would interfere with our duties in life. It is a “reasonable service,” as enjoined by the Church. This very passage is an argument in favour of the Catholic practice; for, these practices must be true wisdom, the appearance of which the others affected. If they were not regarded as good and praiseworthy, even in the days of the Apostle, why should the heretics affect them, in order to appear more holy? And why should the Apostle say, that they had the appearance of wisdom? Was it not because their prudent and proper exercise was true and solid wisdom, perfectly in accordance with the Gospel?

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Colossians Chapter 1

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 9, 2019

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

The Apostle commences this Epistle with the usual form of Apostolical salutation (Col 1:1-2). In the next place, he gives thanks to God for the gifts of grace and the divine virtues of faith, hope, and charity, bestowed on the Colossians (Col 1:3–5). These gifts and virtues were to terminate in the enjoyment of the future blessings promised in the Gospel. From the mention of the Gospel, he takes occasion to confirm the doctrine preached to them by Epaphras, as a faithful minister of the Gospel. He prays that the Lord would grant, them a more perfect knowledge of his holy will, and strength and power to lead lives worthy of God, in the performance of good works, and the patient endurance of sufferings for his sake (Col 1:6–12).

The Apostle then renders thanks to God for the grace of faith, and the other blessings of redemption bestowed on all Christians; and from this, takes occasion to point out the attributes of Christ, and his superior excellence over the angels. He claims for him in a special way, the prerogatives of Creator and Redeemer, of which the heretics wishes to deprive him, by transferring them to the angels. The apostle, therefore, asserts, that he is the image of the invisible God—the Creator of all things, the angels included—the preserver, by his Providence, of all things created—the Redeemer of all men, Jews and Gentiles—the head of the Church—the reconciler of offended heaven with sinful man—the very fulness of the Divinity (Col 1:12–21).

He says that the Colossians will be partakers of the blessings of Redemption, provided they persevere in the faith announced to them, which is the same with that preached throughout the rest of the world. He declares himself to be appointed by the will of God a minister of the Gospel, in order to announce to the Gentiles a mystery hitherto concealed from them—a mystery for the fulfilment or accomplishment of which among the Gentiles, he cheerfully submits to suffering and privations of every kind (Col 1:22-29).

Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

Col 1:1. Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will and authority of God, and Timothy a brother:

“By the will of God.” At the very outset, the Apostle asserts his divine commission, in opposition to the false teachers, who usurped the office of preaching without any divine mission or warranty whatever from God.

“And Timothy.” He mentions him, because known to the Colossians and beloved by them.

Col 1:2. (Salute) the Christians of Colossæ, who are sanctified in Christ Jesus: who believe in him and faithfully serve him.

The three words, “saints,” “faithful,” “brethren,” denote the same, viz., the Christians of Colossæ. They are termed “Saints,” because called to a state of sanctity, and also, because they were sanctified in baptism, having been incorporated with Christ and engrafted on him; “faithful,” true sons of the faithful Abraham, and heirs of his promises; “brethren,” both of Christ and of one another. Hence, the necessity of brotherly union. These three are distinctive epithets of all Christians. “In Christ Jesus.” The word “Jesus,” is not in the Greek, but it is found in several MSS.

Col 1:3. May you enjoy the abundance of all spiritual gifts from their efficient cause, God the Father, and their meritorious cause, our Lord Jesus Christ. We always give thanks to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and always pray for you.

“Grace,” &c., the ordinary Apostolic form of salutation. The words, “and the Lord Jesus Christ,” are wanting in many MSS. and rejected by modern critics. They are found in the Armenian and Coptic versions. “We give, thanks to God,” &c. The Apostle usually commences his Epistles with acts of thanksgiving and prayer. He gives thanks for past favours, and prays for their future continuance. “To God and the Father,” Τῷ Θεῷ καὶ πατρι. For this St. Chrysostom reads, To God the Father, &c.

Col 1:4. After we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the charity which you exercise towards all the faithful.

“Hearing,” ἀκούσαιτες, i.e., having heard, or, after we heard of your faith, &c.

Col 1:5. In the hope of securing these future blessings, treasured up for you in heaven; these blessings of the life to come, you have heard announced and promised to you, by the preaching of the gospel of truth.

This love of their brethren they exercised in the hope of the future rewards, &c. “In the word of the truth of the gospel,” i.e., in the word of the most true gospel in which there is contained no falsehood. Hence, it is a laudable thing, to propose the rewards of the life to come, as the motive of our good works.

Col 1:6. Which gospel has come to you, as it was preached all over the earth, where it fructifies and is become extended, as it has fructified and become extended among you, from the first day you heard it, and knew the true doctrine regarding the gratuitous goodness of God, in reference to man’s redemption.

The words “and groweth,” are not in the Greek, Their genuineness is now admitted, being found in the ancient MSS., in that used by St. Chrysostom among the rest. “Knew the grace of God in truth,” may also mean, have known the grace of God truly and without any admixture of error. In this verse, the Apostle wishes to remove any erroneous impressions, which the false teachers might endeavour to create in their minds, regarding the imperfection of the gospel preached to them, compared with that preached by the Apostles, probably with the view of making their own erroneous doctrine, the complement of the gospel preached to the Colossians.

Col 1:7. According as you learned it from Epaphras, my fellow-servant and co-operator in preaching the gospel, who is most dear to me, as he is also the faithful and sincere minister of Christ Jesus for our good.

This gospel which has been preached by the Apostles throughout the earth, has been preached to you without any error by Epaphras. This the Apostle adds, to guard them against the wiles of the false teachers, who endeavoured to persuade them, that the gospel preached by Epaphras was defective, and that this defect could be supplied only by admitting the points of doctrine preached by themselves. From this it is commonly inferred, that St. Paul was never at Colossæ; otherwise, he should have referred to the doctrines which he himself preached. Hence, he advances the full weight of his Apostolic authority in support of the truth of the gospel preached to them by Epaphras. Epapnras is generally supposed to have been the first teacher of the Colossians; most probably sent to them by St. Paul while visiting the other cities of Phrygia; they, now, in turn, deputed him to visit the Apostle and minister to him in prison.

Col 1:8. Who has made known to us your spiritual and pure love, not only for us, but also for all the saints (Col 1:4).

This Epaphras, who had been ministering to him in his chains, made known to him their love for him. “In the spirit,” means spiritual, unlike the carnal love of the Gnostics; or, it may mean, proceeding from the Holy Ghost.

Col 1:9. Therefore, as soon as we heard of your faith and charity, we ceased not praying to God for you, and supplicating him to fill you with a more perfect knowledge of his holy will, by bestowing upon you the gifts of all knowledge and spiritual understanding.

“With the knowledge of his will,” may mean, the general will of God, regarding them, the great rule to which they should conform their lives; or “the will of God,” in reference to the mode in which he has been pleased to save man, viz., by the death of his Son, and not by angels. And this extended knowledge they will acquire more perfectly by “spiritual wisdom,” i.e., by knowing the mysteries of faith on principles of faith, and “understanding,” knowing them by human illustrations; or “wisdom,” may mean the speculative knowledge of the truths of faith, and “understanding,” the knowledge of applying these truths and principles to the practical detail of their lives.

Col 1:10. That you may live in a manner becoming sons of God and followers of Christ, so as to please God in all things, producing the fruit of every kind of good works, and advancing and progressing more and more in the knowledge of God.

“Worthy of God.” In Greek, worthy of the Lord. “In all things pleasing,” in Greek, unto all pleasing. He explains in the following words, how they will walk worthy of God and please him; it is by omitting no opportunity of performing good works, which he calls “fruitful,” because as the fruits of the earth preserve our temporal life, so do good works ensure our eternal life.

Col 1:11. That strengthened with perfect power, which came from the operation of his glorious omnipotence alone, you may endure all crosses with patience, with long-suffering, and with joy.

He also prays without ceasing, that fortified with perfect spiritual strength, through the glorious power of God, they would be patient and forbearing in adversity, and even receive it with joy, “according to the power of his glory,” i.e., his glorious power. God’s omnipotence is never so glorious as in rendering those omnipotent who hope in him, says St. Bernard. “Patience” is exercised in bearing those afflictions which we cannot revenge; “longanimity,” in bearing with those which we can punish. “With joy.” The patient endurance of crosses is more magnanimous than the performance of the most heroic actions. “Romanorum est fortia facere, Christianorum fortia pati,” out to bear severe trials, not only with patience but with joy, is peculiarly Christian,

Col 1:12. We give thanks to God the Father, who, of his pure mercy and grace, has vouchsafed to make us sharers by the light of faith in the inheritance of the saints, which consists in light, or the beatific vision of God.

“Giving thanks to God the Father.” The Greek omits, God. Some persons connects this verse with verse 9, thus: “we cease not praying God to grant you this grace also of thanking him for having called you,” &c. According to the connexion in the Paraphrase, a new sentence is commenced, and St. Paul having concluded his petitions in the preceding verse, now thanks God for the benefits here enumerated. “The lot of the saints,” τοῦ κληρου τῶν ἁγ ων. Eternal life is called a “lot,” to express its gratuitousness, and the absence of strict claim on our part signified by the absence of a claim on the part of those who gain a thing by casting lots. And though we merit eternal life; still, it is primarily founded on grace. In crowning our merits, he only crowns his own gifts.—St. Augustine. “In light.” The light of faith here, or the light of glory hereafter, by which we shall see God, face to face. “It may, however, denote both, as in Paraphrase.”

Col 1:13. Who has rescued us from the power of darkness, i.e., of demons and infidels, and translated us to the kingdom, i.e., the Church of his beloved Son here, which is the portal to the kingdom of heaven hereafter.

“Darkness,” taken in a moral sense in SS. Scripture, denotes evil; hence, it means here, the power of the devil, the prince of darkness. “The Son of his love,” a Hebraism, for his most beloved Son.

Col 1:14. Through whom we have obtained redemption, which consists in the remission of our sins, and which he effected by giving his blood by way of ransom or price for us.

In the following verses the Apostle claims for Christ, the titles of Creator and Redeemer, the two grand prerogatives of which the Simonians attempted to deprive him, and which they wished to transfer to angels. In this verse, he claims for Him the title of Redeemer, upon which he dilates more fully at verse 20—after claiming for him the title of Creator in the intervening verses, Col 1:16-19. The words “through his blood,” are not in the Rhemish Version, made from the Sixtine Edition of the Vulgate, nor in the Codex Vaticanus, nor in MSS. or Versions generally.

Col 1:15. Who is the perfect image of the invisible God (having the same identical nature with Him), existing before any creature, having been begotten of the Father by an eternal generation.

Before asserting that he is Creator, the Apostle first claims for Christ the supreme attribute of Divinity, and the eternal Sonship of God. Others say, that the object of the Apostle in this verse is, to show the great benefits of Redemption from the exalted nature of the person by whom it was effected. Christ is the perfect delineation of that invisible God whom no one ever saw, and exhibits the perfect image which the person possessing the nature of God could alone exhibit. He was begotten of God by an eternal generation; hence, as far anterior to the Eons of the Gnostics in time, as he is superior to them in causality, which latter is shown in the following verse.

Col 1:16. For by him were all things created in heaven and earth, both visible and invisible, men and angels of every rank and order—whether thrones or dominations, or principalities or powers, all things were created by him and unto him, i.e., for his glory.

In this verse is refuted the false doctrine of the Gnostics, who asserted that this material visible world was created by the ministry of angels. “Through him and in him.” In Greek, unto him, i.e., unto his glory.

Col 1:17. And he is before all creatures, and in him, and through him, all things subsist and are preserved.

In this verse, the Apostle refers to the Divine attribute of Providence, whereby all created things are preserved. From this and the preceding verses, it is clear, that the “image,” εἰκων, referred to in verse 15, must regard the substantial image of God, and the possession of the divine nature; since of God only could it be said that all things were created “by him,” and “in him,” or unto him, as in the Greek, i.e., for his glory, as also that by his providence all things subsist and are preserved. And it was this God—born of the Father before all ages, begotten by eternal generation—his substantial image, by whom all things were made and are still preserved—that submitted to the ignominious tortures of the cross, for what?—to make atonement for the sins of his own creatures—the sins by which he himself was offended. He, though God, submits to tortures, which he could not merit, to free us, worms of earth, from the eternal tortures of the damned which we justly deserved. What excessive love! Sic amantem quis non redamaret.

Col 1:18. And this same person of whom we are treating as God, is, as man, the head of the Church, which is his mystical body; he is the principle and author of the resurrection, and is himself the first born, or first fruits of the dead, consecrating the resurrection of all by raising himself from the grave. So that whether viewed as God, or as man, he holds pre-eminence over all things created.

He now treats of him, as man; as such, he is the head of his mystical body, the Church—towards her, he exercises all the duties, which the relation of head imposes on him, governing and vivifying her by the continual influx of his graces. He is “the beginning,” which appears from the Greek, ὅς ἐστιν ἀρχὴ, to refer to the words immediately following, viz., “the first born from the dead.” Hence, it means, “he is the principle and author of the resurrection.”

Col 1:19. For, it has pleased God the Father, that in Christ, all fulness, all perfection of power necessary for him as head, to govern, and of grace, to vivify his body, should permanently and inseparably dwell, and essentially reside.

“All fulness,” i.e., all perfection of wisdom, grace, power, befitting him, as head of the Church. He has the fulness, not only of grace, but of divinity. “Should dwell,” perpetually, inseparably, and essentially. All grace befitting him as head, dwelt in him in the sense already explained, in order that from the head it would descend to the members, and that each might derive from him, as source, the graces necessary for his state and place in the body. The Greek word for “fulness,” πληρωμα, had a special significance, in the false system of the Gnostics.

Col 1:20. And it hath pleased the Father, to reconcile all things to himself through him—making peace, by the blood which he shed on the cross, between the angels in heaven and men on earth, between whose union under one common head, sin stood as an obstacle.

The Apostle again refers in this verse to the other great prerogative of Christ, viz., that of Redeemer, to which he alluded before (verse 14). “The things on earth, and the things in heaven.” He reconciled men and angels, and united them, hitherto so far dissevered from each other, under one common headship, having destroyed, by the blood which he shed on the cross, the chiefest obstacle to this union, viz., sin.

Col 1:21. And you, when you were alienated at one time from God—nay, enemies in your hearts and minds, offending him by your evil deeds, by your wicked and impious lives:

He now in a special manner applies to the Colossians what he had spoken generally in reference to all. They were aliens to the divine promises and benefits, and enemies to God in their minds, by their own wills, which was shown by their bad works, and their wicked lives.

Col 1:22. He has reconciled now by death, endured in his natural body of flesh, that he might exhibit you to his Father as holy and blameless, free from censure before men, and irreproachable before God himself.

“In the body of his flesh,” not in his mystical body. Hence, their reconciliation was not effected by angels, as the Gnostics affirmed; but by the death of Christ endured in his body of flesh; or, natural body. These words clearly refute the class of early heretics who asserted that Christ assumed not a real but a fantastical body.

Col 1:23. You will be thus holy and irreproachable, provided, however, you remain firm and unshaken in your faith, and persevere unchangeably in the hope of the good things promised by the gospel, which you heard preached amongst you, the same that is preached to every creature under heaven, whether Jew or Gentile, of which gospel, I, Paul, am constitued by God the minister.

He will exhibit them as holy and irreproachable, provided they hold to the faith, and persevere in the hope of heavenly blessings, promised to them by the gospel preached throughout the world. He adds this, probably, in order to disprove the calumnious charge which the false teachers made against Epaphras, whose gospel they asserted to be different from that preached by the Apostles. St. Paul, in character of Apostle, and with the full weight of Apostolic authority, asserts, in refutation of this calumny, that the gospel preached by Epaphras, and by the Apostles all over the earth, perfectly coincided.

Col 1:24. Who now rejoice in the sufferings, which I endure for your sake and for your good, because, by them I fill up and complete in the place of Christ these sufferings which he left to be endured for his mystical body, which is his Church.

“And fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ.” In this, it is by no means implied, that anything was wanting to the sufferings of Christ, as a sufficient atonement. This would be heretical; for, Christ made not only a sufficient, but also a superabundant atonement. But although Christ did this, and would even wish to submit to every kind of suffering, necessary for the formation and perfection of his Church; still, it was the will of God, that to his Apostles and the ministers of the gospel he would leave much to be endured for his Church, and that in his own place, as the Greek for “fulfil,” ανταναπληρω, implies. So that “wanting,” (ὐστερήματα, shortcomings), does not regard “the sufferings of Christ,” but wanting on the part of St. Paul to be endured for the Church. He, then, rejoices in having to undergo what was wanting to himself, or, on his own part, of the sufferings he was to have undergone for the Church, in quality of minister of Christ. Others, by “the sufferings of Christ,” understand the sufferings which St. Paul himself underwent. These he calls “the sufferings of Christ,” because Christ regards the sufferings of his members as his own, since they are parts of his mystical body. It was in this sense, he said to Saul, when persecuting his followers: “Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (Acts 11:24). Hence, as Christ, while here on earth, suffered in his natural body; so, now in heaven will he suffer in his mystical body, in order to apply to us the fruits of his passion. In this interpretation, “the sufferings of Christ,” mean the sufferings which Christ endures in the members of his mystical body. This latter is the common interpretation; the former, nevertheless, appears the more probable.

Col 1:25. Of which mystical body, or Church, I am made a member, according to the wise dispensation of God, by which I am constituted the Apostle of you, Gentiles, and fulfil the promise of God regarding your vocation to the faith.

He is constituted a minister of the Church by the wise distribution of the great Father of the family, who has allotted to him the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, so as to fulfil the promise of God, &c.—See Paraphrase. Others, by “fulfilling the word of God,” πληρῶσαι τὸν λόγον τοῦ Θεοῦ, understand, that he was appointed to preach the word of God fully, so as that there would be no nation left, to which the gospel would not be preached. This interpretation accords well with what follows.

Col 1:26. Which vocation of the Gentiles is the mystery that has been hidden from all past ages and generations of men, but is now manifested to the Apostles and faithful of the new law.

For the full meaning of this verse, see third chapter to the Ephesians.

Col 1:27. To whom God wished to make known how vast are the riches and the glory of this great secret which is accomplished among the Gentiles, which has for object, Christ, who is the cause of your hope of eternal glory.

“The riches of the glory of this mystery,” is fully expressed in the passage referred to, viz., that the Gentiles were to be made “fellow-heirs of the same body, and co-partners of his promise,” &c. (Col 3:6), “which is Christ,” which mystery, or, great secret has for object, all the leading events of our Blessed Redeemer’s life, death, and resurrection. He is the cause and fountain of our hope.

Col 1:28. Whom we announce, rebuking every man living in ignorance and sin, and instructing every man in the perfect knowledge of God and of his mysteries, wherein consists true wisdom, so as to exhibit every man as possessing a perfect knowledge of the faith and gospel of Christ.

“Admonishing every man,” &c., i.e., every man that we can admonish, excluding no man, so as to be able to have every man within our reach, perfectly instructed in the mysteries of God. Happy the pastor of souls, who at judgment can exhibit those committed to his charge instructed in the necessary truths of faith! But how few are there who can meet death with this confidence—how many are there whose little ones cry for bread, without one to break it for them!

Col 1:29. In discharging this duty I labour strenuously, exerting myself according to the strength which Christ powerfully exercises in me.

“Which he worketh in me in power,” may mean, which he worketh, or which is worked in me, by the power of performing miraculous wonders, confirmatory of the doctrine preached, or, the strong internal virtue conferred on him by divine grace.

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Father MacEvilly’s Introduction to Colossians

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 9, 2019


Who were they?—The Colossians, to whom this Epistle was addressed, are supposed by many to have been the people of the Island of Rhodes, called by the name of Colossæ, owing to the famous colossal statue of the sun which stood there, reckoned as one of the seven wonders of the world. This opinion is, however, generally rejected as improbable; and the Colossians are commonly believed to have been a people of Phrygia in Asia Minor. The city of Colossæ was not far distant from Laodicea and Hieropolis, as appears from Col 2:1; 4:16-17, &c., of this Epistle. It is most likely, nay, almost certain, that St. Paul was never at Colossæ. This is clearly inferred from Col 2:1, and from the fact, that, throughout the entire Epistle, he never makes the most remote allusion to the exercise of his Apostleship there, which he ordinarily does, when addressing those whom he himself converted. On the contrary, he ascribes their conversion to Epaphras (Col 1:7). The common opinion, then, is, that Epaphras was the first who preached the Gospel to the Colossians. But, although St. Paul did not in person preach to them; still, in character of Apostle of the Gentiles, having “the solicitude of all the churches,” he feels himself called upon to address them on subjects of faith, regarding which the weight of his Apostolic authority might be required to secure them against the wiles and snares of the false teachers. And although he was not the founder of their Church, immediately, still he might be regarded as such in a certain sense, inasmuch as the Gospel came to them at least mediately through him.

Occasion of.—The occasion of this Epistle was to guard the Colossians against the false teachers, who endeavoured to introduce corrupt doctrines amongst them. The heresies which St. Paul combats in all his Epistles might be classed under two heads. To the first, belonged the heresies of the Judaizantes. These were certain Jewish fanatics, who ascribed too much efficacy to the ceremonial law of the Jews, and while admitting Christ to be a model of virtue and the consummator of faith, still maintained that the observance of the Mosaic law was necessary to confer justice, and should be associated with the Christian religion. Against this class the Apostle specially directs his Epistles to the Romans, Galatians, Philippians, and Hebrews. Under the second, were comprised the errors of the Gnostic heretics, who wished to join the Platonic system of philosophy with the Christian religion. To these belonged Simon Magus, Ebion, Cerinthus, Valentinus, and the Manichees. Against this class were specially directed the Epistles to the Colossians, Ephesians, Timothy, Jude, and Second of St. Peter. It was to guard the faithful of Colossæ against this latter class of false teachers, St. Paul, in character of Apostle of nations, wrote this Epistle.

The second part of this, as in the case with all the Epistles of St. Paul, is chiefly employed in inculcating several duties of Christian morality.

When and where written.—It is generally supposed to have been written from Rome. The subscription of the Greek copies asserts, that it was sent by Tychicus and Onesimus, whom St. Paul had converted when in chains. It is supposed to have been written during his first imprisonment, about the year 62, and to have been conveyed to its destination, by the bearers of the Epistles to the Ephesians, Philippians and also of that to Philemon.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Colossians Chapter 4

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 27, 2019

Comments on 4:1 were given in the context of chapter 3. Text in red are my additions. Text in purple indicates quotations from Fr. Callan’s other commentaries.


A Summary of Col 4:2-6~In these concluding words of the Moral Part of the Epistle to the Colossians St. Paul first counsels prayer and thanksgiving in general for all, and in particular for himself, that he may be able to make the best of his opportunities (Col 4:2-4). He then advises tactfulness in dealing with pagans, zeal in the use of time, and graciousness in speech (Col 4:5-6).

Col 4:2. Be instant in prayer, watching in it with thanksgiving:

Be instant in prayer, i.e., let your prayers be continual, for prayer is the very breath of the soul.

With thanksgiving. He does not deserve new benefits who is not grateful for those received, says St. Thomas.

Col 4:3. Praying at the same time for us also, that God may open unto us a door of speech to speak the mystery of Christ (for which also I am bound);

The Apostle asks the faithful to pray for him that he may have opportunity to preach the Gospel.

A door of speech. Better, “a door for the word,” i.e., the opportunity of preaching the Gospel.

The mystery of Christ, which was that the Gospel was to be announced to the Gentiles.

I am bound, i.e., imprisoned, chained to a Roman sentinel; and all because he had preached the Gospel. See the commentary on Eph. 3:3-9.

Col 4:4. That I may make it manifest as I ought to speak.

The Apostle asks for help that he may discharge his obligation of preaching the Gospel as he is required by his divine commission: “Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16).

Col 4:5. Walk with wisdom towards them that are without, redeeming the time.
Discretion in dealing with non-Christians was of the greatest importance, lest obstacles to preaching the Gospel should arise.

Redeeming the time, i.e., letting no opportunity pass of doing good.

Col 4:6. Let your speech be always in grace seasoned with salt: that you may know how you ought to answer every man.

The faithful should cultivate grace and tact in speaking with pagans, so as to give edification and be able to answer questions that may be put to them about the faith.


A Summary of Col 4:7-18~Tychicus will bear this letter to the Colossians, accompanied by Onesimus, their fellow-townsman; and both will tell the faithful at Colossae all the news about the Apostle and his companions in Rome (Col 4:7-9). Those who are with Paul in the Eternal City join him in sending greetings to the Colossians and he asks that his greetings be extended to the faithful at Laodicea, to Nymphas, and to the church that is in his house (Col 4:10-15). This letter should be read at Laodicea, and the one sent to the Laodiceans should be read at Colossae. Archippus should be reminded of his duty. Paul pens the final words and his blessing with his own hand (Col 4:16-18).

Col 4:7. All the things that concern me, Tychicus, our beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow-servant in the Lord, will make known to you;
Col 4:8. Whom I have sent to you for this same purpose, that he may know the things that concern you, and comfort your hearts,

See on Eph. 6:21-22. Tychicus was the Apostle’s trusted messenger (Tit. 3:12; 2 Tim. 4:12). Here is what Fr. Callan wrote concerning this individual: Tychicus was a native of Asia Minor, perhaps of Ephesus (Acts 20:4; 2 Tim. 4:12). His name is found in inscriptions of Asia Minor and Rome, on coins of Magnesia, thirteen miles from Ephesus, and of Magnesia by Mt. Sipylus, where the Bishop of Ephesus now resides, thirty-eight miles from his titular see (see Hitchcock, Ephesians, p. 506; Lightfoot, Colossians, p. 234).

That he may know the things that concern you. A better reading of this passage is: “That ye may know our condition.”

Col 4:9. With Onesimus, a beloved and faithful brother, who is one of you. All things that are done here, they shall make known to you.

Onesimus, a slave of Philemon at Colossse, who deserted his master and fled to Rome, virhere he was converted by St. Paul. See Introduction to Philemon.

Brother, i.e., a fellow-Christian.

Who is one of you, i.e., a Colossian. Not all the Colossian Christians, however, were or had been slaves; many of them were freeborn.

Col 4:10. Aristarchus, my fellow-prisoner, saluteth you, and Mark, the cousin german of Barnabas, touching whom you have received commandments; if he come unto you, receive him:

Paul now includes the salutations of those companions who were with him in Rome (Col 4:10-14). The first three—Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus—were of Jewish origin; the other three were Gentile helpers, that is, converts from paganism—Epaphras, Luke, and Demas. Aristarchus was a Thessalonian, who had been with Paul at Ephesus, and had accompanied him to Jerusalem, and afterwards to Rome (Acts 19:29, 20:4, 27:2).

My fellow-prisoner perhaps means here only that Aristarchus was closely associated with Paul in the latter’s imprisonment in Rome (Phlm. 24).

Mark, or John Mark, the companion of Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey, the cousin of Barnabas, and the author of the Second Gospel (Acts 4:36, 12:12, 15:37, 39).

Touching whom, etc. Perhaps this means that Mark was unknown to the Colossians, or that his former estrangement from St. Paul had left him under some suspicion with the faithful.

Col 4:11. And Jesus, that is called Justus: who are of the circumcision; these only are my helpers in the kingdom of God ; who have been a comfort to me.

And Jesus, etc. He is not otherwise known to us. The Hebrew form of his name was Jehoshua, or Joshua,

Who are of the circumcision, i.e., converts to Christianity from Judaism. Some think Aristarchus was of Gentile origin, on account of Acts 20:4.

These only are my helpers, etc. Probably he means the leaders among the Jewish Christians, or those only of his own nationality who gave him special help.

Col 4:12. Epaphras saluteth you, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, who is always solicitous for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect, and full in all the will of God.
Col 4:13. For I bear him testimony that he hath much labor for you, and for them that are at Laodicea, and them at Hierapolis.

Epaphras was the Apostle of the Colossian Church, and perhaps the founder of the other two Churches of the Lycus Valley also.

And full. Another and better reading here gives “fully assured,” i.e., with a conscience that is entirely and certainly illuminated regarding the will of God.

Laodicea . . . Hierapolis. See Introduction to this Epistle, No. I.

Col 4:14. Luke, the beloved physician, saluteth you; and Demas.

Luke, the writer of the Third Gospel.

Demas was probably a Thessalonian. He is mentioned here without affection, and later forsook St. Paul for love of the world (Phlm. 24; 2 Tim, 4:10).

Col 4:15. Salute the brethren who are at Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church that is in his house.

Nymphas was a Laodicean, who was doubtless well-to-do, and had a large house where the faithful were accustomed to gather for worship. His name is probably an abbreviation of Nymphodorus.

His house. Another good reading has “their house,” referring to Nymphas and his family.

Col 4:16. And when this epistle shall have been read with you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans : and that you read that which is of the Laodiceans.

See Introduction to Ephesians, No. IV.

Col 4:17. And say to Archippus: Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfill it.

Archippus was probably the son of Philemon (Phlm. 2), and likely assistant to Epaphras in the Church at Colossae. He must have been in sacred orders, as St. Paul speaks of “the ministry” he had “received in the Lord.” The Apostle’s word of admonition to him seems to indicate either that he was just beginning, or that he was not sufficiently attentive to his duties, Cf. 2 Tim. 4:5.

Col 4:18. The salutation of Paul with my own hand. Be mindful of my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen,

The Apostle affectionately closes the letter with his own hand. He asks the Colossians to remember the imprisonment he is suffering for having preached the Gospels to the Gentile world. His blessing is short, as in 1 and 2 Tim. Perhaps the “Amen” should be omitted.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Colossians Chapter 3

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 27, 2019

This post opens with Fr. Callan’s brief summary of the moral part of the epistle (Col 3:1-4:6)., followed by commentary on 3:1-4:1. Text in purple indicate quotations from Fr. Callan’s other commentaries.


A Summary of Colossians 3:1-4:6~In the Moral Part of the Epistle to the Colossians St. Paul, arguing from the principles he has laid down in the Dogmatic Part, takes up the duties of the Christian life in general, showing what life in union with the Risen Lord demands, first in a negative and then in a positive way (Col 3:1-17). Next he treats of relative duties, pertinent to particular states (Col 3:18—4:1), concluding with some precepts addressed to all Christians (Col 4:2-6). See Introduction, No. IV, C.


A Summary of Colossians 3:1-17~After having directly attacked the errors of the pseudodoctors and shown their baneful and futile consequences (Col 2:8-23), the Apostle now returns to the positive teaching of Col 2:6-7, pointing out that Christians share in the risen life of their Lord, and that consequently new and higher motives should dominate their activities. Being dead to the lower things, they are now centred in Christ, and will appear with Him hereafter in glory (Col 3:1-4). This new life requires in a negative way a breaking with all the sins of their pagan past (Col 3:5-9), and on its positive and practical side an ever fuller growing into the likeness of Christ, and into a state where Christ is supreme for all mankind (Col 3:10-11). Moreover, this new life involves a practice of those virtues which Christ’s example has taught, especially charity, which is the bond of perfection, and unity, which couples the members of the Christian society with their divine Head. May the message of Christ be fruitful in them, making itself vibrant in their hearts and vocal in their music! All their undertakings must be performed in their Master’s name, and thus they will be rendering continual thanks to God the Father who has conferred all blessings on us through Christ (Col 3:12-17).

Col 3:1. Therefore, if you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above; where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God: Col 3:2. Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth.

As an antidote to the doctrines of the false teachers who were imposing material things as a means of spiritual progress, St. Paul here tells his readers to lift their thoughts above where Christ their Head is seated, as a king on his throne, ready to dispense His gifts and graces to His subjects.

If. See above, on Col 2:20. Here is what Fr. Callan wrote there: The connective “if” here, as later in Col 3:1, does not express doubt or conjecture, but rather assumption...

Be risen, etc. See on Col 2:12. Fr. Callan there wrote: The Apostle explains when and how the Colossians received the circumcision of Christ. It took place at the time of their Baptism, when their immersion in the water signified their death and burial to sin, and their coming out of it represented their resurrection to a new life of grace. See commentary on Rom 6:4 ff.

At the right hand, etc., i.e., the place of power and authority.

Col 3:3. For you are dead; and your hfe is hid with Christ in God.
Col 3:4. When Christ shall appear, who is our life, then you also shall appear with him in glory.

The Apostle now gives the reason why all the thoughts and desires of the faithful should be above. In Baptism they died to the world and things of earth, and their supernatural life, like the life of their Risen Saviour, is hidden from the sight of men; but at the end of time when Christ appears in glory to judge the world, then their hidden life shall also be made manifest.

In verse 4 of the Vulgate we should have vita nostra, instead of vita vestra, according to the best Greek.

Col 3:5. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, unclcanness, lust, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is the service of idols.

The faithful must master and hold at bay those evil tendencies of their nature which would destroy their hidden life and lead them away from Christ. The Apostle mentions here, as in Eph 5:3-5, some of the sins and vices to which they were most inclined, and which therefore they must especially guard against. See on Eph 5:3-5. Father Callan writes concerning these sins in his comments on Eph 5:3-5~Impurity and grasping self-assertion were central sins of paganism, and they are condemned by the Apostle in all their forms; not only are they not to be practised, they are not even to be named among Christians, who by their profession are consecrated to the God of holiness, purity, and justice. He also writes the following concerning fornication, uncleanness, and covetousness which are also mentioned in the present verse:

Fornicator (fornication), as here used, means also adultery and every illicit sexual union.

Unclean (uncleanness) refers to private impurity.

Covetous person (covetousness), i.e., inordinate lover of material wealth, a person who makes a god of his money. (see further note on covetousness below).Which is a serving of idols. Covetousness is a kind of real idolatry.

Your members which are upon the earth most likely refers to the vices which he proceeds to enumerate, and which are all in the accusative or objective case following “mortify” (Knabenbauer, h. l.).

Covetousness . . . the service of idols. Lightfoot says that “covetousness” here is to be taken in its ordinary sense, as greed for material gain, and that the Greek word of itself never denotes sensual lust. But that the word lends itself to a connection with sensual ideas appears from a comparison of this passage with Eph 4:19, Eph 5:3-5; 1 Thess 4:6; 1 Cor 5:11. “Service of idols” would then refer back to all the sins just enumerated. Cf. Moule, h. l.

Col 3:6. For which things the wrath of God cometh upon the children of unbelief,

The Apostle warns his readers of the punishment that is in store for the vices just spoken of.

Upon the children of unbelief is not in the best Greek, but is probably to be retained on good documentary evidence. See on Eph 5:6. The text of Ephesians states that “because of these things” (i.e., the sins mentioned above) “cometh the anger of God upon the children of unbelief.” Fr. Callan writes: The Apostle warns his readers not to be deceived and led into error by any “vain” (i.e., empty and false) words or talk, regarding the sins he has just condemned; for because of those very sins the punishment of God “cometh,” i.e., visits now and will continue to visit in the future those rebellious ones who disobey and disregard His teachings as contained in the Gospel. Cf, Col 3:6.

Col 3:7. In which you also walked some time, when you lived in them.

In which can refer to the “children of unbelief” of the preceding verse (in which case we should translate “among whom”), or to the vices mentioned in verse 5; more probably the latter.

When you lived, etc., refers to the time before their conversion.

Col 3:8. But now put you also all away anger, indignation, malice, blasphemy, filthy speech out of your mouth.

See on Eph 4:29, Eph 4:31. Anger and indignation can sometimes be justifiable (“be angry, but sin not”, Eph 4:6), but quite often these passions degenerate into sin, often manifesting themselves in malice, blasphemy, filthy speech, etc. Concerning anger Fr. Callan writes the following in his commentary on Eph 4:31: Anger is a transient outburst of passion, whereas indignation, or wrath, is a settled or chronic condition including the purpose of revenge.   On blasphemy he writes: Blasphemy is taken literally from the Greek, but it would be better to translate it in this passage by “reviling,” since there is question now of evil speech, not against God but against man. Concerning malice he writes: Malice, i.e., malevolence or the desire to injure, is the root of the sins just mentioned. Compare the parallel passage in Col 3:8.

Col 3:9. Lie not one to another: stripping yourselves of the old man with his deeds,

The old man, etc. See on Eph 4:22; Eph 4:24-25. Eph 4:22 reads: “put off, according to former conversation, the old man, who is corrupted according to the desire of error.” Father Callan comments: They have been taught—or rather, they were taught at the time of their conversion—to put off the old sinful man inherited from Adam, whose principles and mode of life were theirs as pagans, and living according to which they became ever more and more plunged into sin and error.

Commenting on Eph 4:24-25 he writes: (24) And put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of the truth.

It is not sufficient to put off the old man of sin which you have inherited from Adam, but you must also “put on the new man, etc.,” i.e., the man who has been regenerated by the grace of the Holy Ghost, and who having been created “according to God, etc.” (i.e., having been created in the beginning in the image and likeness of God), imitates God in his new life of grace by keeping the commandments which reflect the divine will and therefore God Himself. This new man, or creation of grace, “is created in justice and holiness,” i.e., he lives a life faithful to the obligations he owes to his neighbor (justice) and to the duties he owes to God (holiness)—that is, a life which is in entire conformity with “the truth” of the Gospel, as revealed in the Gospel.

(25) Wherefore putting away lying, speak ye the truth every man with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

Wherefore, i.e., since you have put off the old man and put on the new man who is characterized by justice and holiness, you must be on your guard against falling back into the sins of your former life; and first of all, you must put “away lying,” because this is so injurious to the neighbor, whom we are bound not to injure but to assist, as being all members of the one mystical body of Christ. Lying injures not only the neighbor, but oneself also, because we are all members of the same body, and that which injures one part of the body is felt in all the parts; the injury of the part reacts on the whole.

Col 3:10. And putting on the new, him who is renewed unto knowledge, according to the image of him that created him.

The Apostle has just been enumerating sins which Christians must avoid. But it is not enough to weed out vices; virtues must be planted in.

The new. i.e., the new man, the new self. See on Eph 4:24. Father Callan comments on that verse as follows: It is not sufficient to put off the old man of sin which you have inherited from Adam, but you must also “put on the new man, etc.,” i.e., the man who has been regenerated by the grace of the Holy Ghost, and who having been created “according to God, etc.” (i.e., having been created in the beginning in the image and likeness of God), imitates God in his new life of grace by keeping the commandments which reflect the divine will and therefore God Himself. This new man, or creation of grace, “is created in justice and holiness,” i.e., he lives a life faithful to the obligations he owes to his neighbor (justice) and to the duties he owes to God (holiness)—that is, a life which is in entire conformity with “the truth” of the Gospel, as revealed in the Gospel.

Who is renewed, etc. The regenerate life is one of progress, growling into ever fuller knowledge and more perfect love of God, of Christ, and of our duties as Christians (2 Cor 4:16).

According to the image, etc. As man in the natural order was made in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26-28), so in his regeneration does he come to express that image, but in a far more perfect manner (Gal 6:15).

Col 3:11. Where there is neither Gentile nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all, and in all.

In this new state of regenerated humanity the old distinctions of races and conditions of men are wiped out, and all are united in one mystical body of which Christ is the head and the faithful the members.

Barbarian was a contemptuous term, applied in pre-Augustan times to all who did not speak Greek; later it signified all who were devoid of Roman and Greek culture.

Scythian meant the worst of barbarians. The Scythians were much like the modern Turks, and the Greeks and Jews regarded them “as the wildest of wild tribes” (Moule).

Col 3:12. Put ye on therefore, as the elect of God, holy, and beloved, the bowels of mercy, benignity, humility, modesty, patience:
Col 3:13. Bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if any have a complaint against another : even as the Lord hath forgiven you, so do you also.
Col 3:14. But above all these things have charity, which is the bond of perfection:

St. Paul has given just above a short list of sins illustrative of those to which the Christian has died; and now (Col 3:12-17) he will mention some of the typical virtues which should characterize the life of grace. Since Christians are the chosen people of God and the recipients of His special graces and favors, they ought to manifest in their lives those virtues which are in keeping with their privileged state.

Bowels of mercy (verse 12), a Hebrew expression, means tenderness of heart, sentiments of compassion.

Charity (verse 14) is the queen of virtues, the silver cord which binds all the others together, and without which every other virtue is imperfect. See on Eph 4:2, 32 ; 1 Cor 13.

The habete of the Vulgate before “charity” is not expressed in the Greek (of verse 14), but some verb, like have or put on, is understood.

Col 3:15. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, wherein also you are called in one body: and be ye thankful.

See on Eph 2:11-22, 4:1-6. Father Callan’s commentary on Eph 2:11-22 can be found here. His commentary on Eph 4:1-6 is here.

Rule in your hearts. The Greek for “rule” here means a moderator, or an umpire in an athletic game.

In place of exultet, the Vulgate should have regnet.And be ye thankful, for the many divine benefits and graces of your vocation. Perhaps “grateful” would be a better word than “thankful” here.

Col 3:16. Let the word of Christ dwell in you abundantly, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles, singing in grace in your hearts to God.

Word of Christ, i.e., the message of the Gospel. The more the teachings of Christ penetrate the heart, the more will charity, peace, and gratitude abound among the faithful. The phrase “in all wisdom” more probably goes with what follows, and hence there should be no comma after sapientia in the Vulgate.

Admonishing, etc. See on Eph 5:19. Commenting on that verse Fr. Callan writes: If the Holy Spirit fills the souls of the faithful, it will be natural that the sacred exhilaration within them should burst forth “in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual canticles,” i.e., in instrumental and vocal music, arising not only from their lips, but also from their “hearts to the Lord.” This musical expression of fervor among the assembled early Christians is spoken of in Acts 4:24, 31, 16:25, and was referred to by Pliny in his letter to the Emperor Trajan, written between 108 and 114 a.d., when he said: “They [the Christians] are accustomed to meet before dawn on a stated day, and to chant to Christ, as to a God, alternately together” (Epist. x. 97). Of course, St. Paul here seems to be speaking of social gatherings rather than of liturgical services.

Col 3:17. All whatsoever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father by him.

Christians by their Baptism and consecration to God have become the property of their divine Master, they are one with Him; and consequently, all they do and say should be in conformity with this holy relationship. This is the way to render continual thanks to God the Father.


A Summary of Col 3:18-4:1~St. Paul speaks here of the mutual duties of wives and husbands, children and parents, slaves and masters. Though briefer, his treatment is practically identical with what he has in Eph. 5:22-6:9, on which see commentary for an explanation of the present passage. For this reason the text of Col 3:18-4:1 follows without comment.

Col 3:18. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as it behooveth in the Lord.
Col 3:19. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter towards them.
Col 3:20. Children, obey your parents in all things ; for this is well pleasing to the Lord.
Col 3:21. Fathers, provoke not your children to indignation, lest they be discouraged.
Col 3:22. Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not serving to the eye, as pleasing men, but in simplicity of heart, fearing God.
Col 3:23. Whatsoever you do, do it from the heart, as to the Lord, and not to men:
Col 3:24. Knowing that you shall receive of the Lord the reward of inheritance. Serve ye the Lord Christ.
Col 3:25. For he that doth wrong, shall receive for that which he hath done wrongfully: and there is no respect of persons with God.

Col 4:1 Masters, do to your servants that which is just and equal: knowing that you also have a master in heaven..

As already indicated above, Fr. Callan sends us to his commentary on Eph 5:22-6:9 for St Paul’s teaching on these matters. He dealt with this in two parts which can be read here: Part 1 on Eph 5:22-33; Part 2 on Eph 6:1-9.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Colossians Chapter 2

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 27, 2019


A Summary of Colossians 2:1-7~St. Paul writes to the Colossians and their neighbors of Laodicea, though he has never seen them, in order that they may be united in charity and have a full understanding of that divine secret of which he has been speaking. The secret is to know God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent (John 17:3). The Apostle is anxious about his unknown readers, because of the specious errors that are abroad among them. Though absent in body, he is spiritually present with them, and he rejoices at the solid battle front their faith is presenting to the enemy. They have learned the truth about Christ, and may they show it in their lives, and ever abound in thanksgiving!

Col 2:1. For I would have you know, what manner of care I have for you and for them that are at Laodicea, and whosoever have not seen my face in the flesh:

The first three verses of this Chapter are intimately connected with the end of the preceding Chapter, and they explain St. Paul’s “labor” and “striving” in behalf of the Colossians and their neighbors whom he had not seen. The Apostle’s zeal and solicitude went out to all Christian communities, and especially those of Gentile origin (2 Cor 11:28).

Care means rather “struggle,” according to the Greek.

Laodicea. See Introduction to this Epistle, No. II.

Col 2:2. That their hearts may be comforted, being instructed in charity, and unto all riches of fullness of understanding, unto the knowledge of the mystery of God the Father and of Christ:

The Apostle here tells the purpose of his solicitude and prayers for his unknown correspondents, namely, “that their hearts may be comforted,” i.e., that they may be admonished and strengthened in faith, as there is question of doctrine and of guarding against errors; that “being instructed in charity,” or rather, “being bound together in charity” (i.e., in Christian love), they may attain to a full understanding of the mystery which God the Father has revealed to us in Christ. The phrases “unto all riches, etc.” and “unto the knowledge of the mystery, etc.” are parallel, one to the other, and explain each other.

The last words of this verse, “of God the Father, etc.,” are variously read in the MSS., versions, and Fathers; but the sense is clear in any reading. Perhaps the best reading is that of the Vatican MS. and St. Hilary: του θεου χριστου.

Christ is in apposition with “mystery.”

Col 2:3. In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

The Mystery of God which St. Paul would have his readers grasp is none other than Christ, in whom are contained all the riches of divine and human wisdom and knowledge. As God, Christ possessed infinite wisdom and knowledge, and as man His knowledge was superior to that of men and angels. The faithful, therefore, need not go to other teachers or masters, nor give heed to the doctrines preached by the false teachers in the name of angels; let them hear and follow in all things Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life. “Jesus Christ is a great Book. He who can indeed study Him in the word of God will know all he ought to know. Humility opens this Divine Book, faith reads in it, love learns from it” (Quesnel, quoted by Moule, h. l.).

Col 2:4. Now this I say, that no man may deceive you by loftiness of words.

The Apostle comes now to the case of the Colossians, showing that what he has been saying was intended to put them on their guard against the false teachers, who have been trying to deceive them by plausible arguments.

Now this I say, doubtless refers to what he has said in the verses just preceding about the mystery and wealth of knowledge which are in Christ.

In place of in sublimitate, other good MSS. of the Vulgate have in subtilitate; the Greek has, “in persuasiveness of speech.”

Col 2:5. For though I be absent in body, yet in spirit I am with you; rejoicing and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith which is in Christ.

St. Paul knows the state of things at Colossse, and, though absent in body, he is present wiith the faithful in mind and heart; and he rejoices at the resistance they are offering to the false teachers.

Order . . . steadfastness. Better, “orderly array . . . solid front.” These are military terms, perhaps suggested by the soldiers of the Praetorian Guard by whom in their turn the Apostle was surrounded at this time.

Col 2:6. As therefore you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk ye in him,

As therefore, referring to what he has just said about their firm faith. In this and the following verse the Apostle is stressing the need of continuing united to Christ, or persevering in the faith which the Colossians received from Epaphras, their apostle and master, and of shaping their lives according to its teachings.

The Lord. This expression shows that the historic Jesus was also the Christ, the Messiah, and the sovereign and universal Master. See on Eph 3:11; Phil 2:11.

Col 2:7. Rooted and built up in him, and confirmed in the faith, as also you have learned, abounding in it in thanksgiving.

Rooted . . . built, two metaphors—one taken from a tree firmly fixed in the ground and the other from a house strongly constructed—to enforce again the necessity of adhering to Christ, the sole principle of the supernatural life; and the means of this union is the faith, as they “have learned” it from Epaphras. See on commentary on Eph 3:17, and the commentary on Eph 2:22.

In it, i.e., in faith, producing the full fruit of faith.

The Vulgate in illo should be in ea, to agree with the Greek, though some MSS. have simply, “abounding in thanksgiving,” It was entirely becoming that the faithful should be abundantly grateful for the gift of faith and for the rich blessings it brought them.


A Summary of Colossians 2:8-23. St. Paul now directly considers the so-called philosophy of the false teachers among the Colossians, and he finds it is in opposition to Christian principles in doctrine and in practice. It is based on human traditions and worldly elements, instead of following Christ, in whom dwells the fullness of the Godhead, in whom the Colossians will find all they need for salvation, and who is superior to all powers. In Christ they have received the true circumcision, which is of the heart, having been buried with Him in Baptism and risen with Him through faith to a new life. Yes, when they were dead in their sins, God gave them new life in Christ, pardoning them their offences and liberating them from the burdens of the Law. It was the victory of the cross that cast off the principalities and powers, and led them away in triumphal defeat (Col 2:8-15). Therefore, the Colossians must not be judged by regulations and observances which were only shadows of the reality which is Christ. Nor let them be cheated of their prize by a wrong asceticism and worship of angels which would lead away from Christ, the head of all; for it is through Christ alone that the Church attains that full growth which is of God. Since, then, the Colossians have died to the elements of the world, they should pay no need to those things which perish in the using. These precepts and doctrines of men have an outward appearance of value, but they are really impotent against sensual indulgences (Col 2:16-23).

Col 2:8. Beware lest any man cheat you by philosophy, and vain deceit: according to the traditions of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ:

Cheat you. Better, “make you his spoil,” or “spoil you.”

Philosophy here is to be understood in a wide sense, as embracing a system of teaching in religious matters. Thus it was often used in antiquity, as when Philo speaks of the Jewish religion and the Law of Moses as a philosophy (Leg. ad Caium, 23, 33); and Josephus applies the same name to the doctrines of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes (Ant., xviii. i, 2). There is no thought in this passage of belittling true philosophy, which is the fruit of correct reasoning from sound principles.

Vain deceit. The false teachers pretended to have a superior wisdom to communicate, but which in reality was empty and far removed from truth. Instead of coming from God, or divine revelation, or the use of right reason, their so-called philosophy was based on “the traditions of men” (i.e., mere human opinions) and “the elements of the world” (i.e., certain Jewish rites and institutions, which were regulated by the Jewish calendar, such as new moons, sabbaths, and other recurring festivals). See below, on Col 2:16. Other authorities think the term “elements” here is used in a technical sense “for spiritual beings supposed to animate and preside over the elements of the physical universe, and generally conceived as resident in the heavenly bodies” (so Dodd, in Abingdon Bible, h. l.). It seems best to say with Fr. Rickaby that “it was not the mere observance of Jewish festivals, but beyond that the positive cultus of the heavenly bodies or of angels as controllers of those bodies, that displeased St. Paul” (Further Notes on St. Paul, h. l.).

Col 2:9. For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead corporally;

The faithful must not seek spiritual knowledge and help outside of Christ, for in Him dwells the “fullness of the Godhead,” i.e., the totality of deity.

Corporally, i.e., corporally, totally, entirely. See on Col 1:19 above. Others explain “corporally” to mean, not figuratively, but substantially and personally; or with a bodily manifestation (Lightfoot).

Col 2:10. And you are filled in him, who is the head of all principality and power:

As the fullness of deity is in Christ, making Him all-perfect, the faithful can find in Him all they need for their salvation and religious perfection; they need not seek elsewhere. Christ is the “head of all principality, etc.,” i.e., all angels are subject to Him and inferior to Him.

Col 2:11. In whom also you were circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the despoiling of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ:

The false teachers were advocating circumcision of the body as a means to spiritual perfection; but St. Paul reminds the Colossians that in virtue of their union with Christ they have already received the real, interior, spiritual circumcision, which is of the heart, and which alone counts before God. This spiritual circumcision consists “in the despoiling, etc.,” better, “in the stripping off of the fleshy body,” i.e., in the cutting away of the lower instincts and appetites in man, in the putting ofif of the old man of sin (Rom 6:6).

The word sed in the Vulgate should be omitted.

Col 2:12. Buried with him in baptism, in whom also you are risen again by faith in the operation of God, who raised him up from the dead.

The Apostle explains when and how the Colossians received the circumcision of Christ. It took place at the time of their Baptism, when their immersion in the water signified their death and burial to sin, and their coming out of it represented their resurrection to a new life of grace. See on Rom 6:4 flf.

By faith, etc. In order that Baptism may confer spiritual life, faith in the power of God who raised Jesus to life is required in adults who have the use of reason (Rom 1:17).

Who raised him, etc. The Apostle mentions the resurrection of Jesus, because this mystery is fundamental to Christianity.

Col 2:13. And you, when you were dead in your sins, and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he quickened together with him, forgiving us all offences:

Such is the circumcision of Christ, which is conferred through Baptism; and now the Apostle will apply to the Colossians what he has been saying on this subject, recalling first to their minds their former miserable condition of soul as pagans.

The uncircumcision of your flesh means their unregenerate state, in which they obeyed the promptings of the flesh (Eph 2:3).

He quickened, etc., i.e., God the Father raised you to new, spiritual life, “with him” (i.e., with Christ), when by faith you became united to Christ in Baptism.

According to the best Greek MSS., the Vulg. should read donans nobis; the forgiveness of sins was something common to all converts, Jewish and Gentile.

Col 2:14. Blotting out the handwriting of the decree that was against us, which was contrary to us. And he hath taken the same out of the way, fastening it to the cross

Blotting out, etc., is parallel to the preceding phrase, “forgiving us all offences” (ver. 13), and means that God had cancelled the indebtedness which our sins had caused to be registered against us.

Handwriting of the decree. Better, as in R. V., “the bond written in ordinances,” i.e., the signature of obligation to observance, whether expressed in the “ordinances,” or “orders,” or “decrees” of the Mosaic Law for the Jews (Deut 27:15-26); or in the dictates of the natural law and conscience for the pagans (Rom 2:12-15).

The reference then is primarily to indebtedness incurred by the Jews in violating the decrees and prescriptions of the Law of Moses, but secondarily also to that incurred by the Gentiles in violating the law written on their own hearts. Therefore, when the Apostle says, “which was contrary to us,” all are included, all were under the curse of law, Gentiles as well as Jews. See on Eph 2:15. Now God, through Christ, has destroyed this account that stood against us, taking it “out of the way,” in which it stood between us and God; and this He did by “fastening it to the cross” of Christ, on which our Lord suffered and atoned for all our sins and transgressions.

The Vulgate chirographum decreti should be made to agree with the Greek, which has τοις δογμασιν  (dative); hence we should read decretis, and understand a chirographum which was expressed in or based on “decrees,” or “orders,” or “ordinances.”

Col 2:15. And despoiling the principalities and powers, he hath exposed them confidently in open shew, triumphing over them in him.

As God through Christ has quickened us, forgiving our offences and blotting out the handwriting that was against us (ver. 13-14), so has He spoiled, exposed to contempt and derision, and triumphed over the hostile powers that had held man captive. It was through the Law that those principalities and powers were able to enslave man (Gal 3:19, Gal 4:9-10); and hence those agencies met their defeat when our Lord by His death on the cross abolished the Law, bringing it to an end.

Principalities and powers. These two terms are used above (Col 1:16, Col 2:10) in a favorable sense for good angels, but here they are taken in an evil sense for demons, as in Eph 6:12.

Exposed them confidently. Better, “made a show of them with outspokenness,” i.e., exposed them publicly to ridicule and contempt, leading them as captives in triumphal procession (θριαμβευσας αυτους).

The Latin confidenter and palam are a rendering of the Greek  εν παρρησια (“confidently in open show”); and in semetipso should be in eo (εν αυτω), i.e., in Christ, or In the cross. It is not certain whether the subjects of the verbs in verses 13-15 should be understood to be God or Christ, but it seems better, in the light of the context, to take God as the subject. God triumphed over the enemies of man through Jesus Christ by means of the cross of Christ.

Col 2:16. Let no man therefore judge you in meat or in drink, or in respect of a festival day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath,
Col 2:17. Which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ.

So far, in verses 8-15, St. Paul has been opposing the erroneous speculations of the false teachers, and now, in verses 16-23, he will attack their false asceticism. He warns his readers not to be disturbed about their neglect of outworn Mosaic observances regarding food and drink, the Jewish festivals, such as the New Moon, the Sabbath, and the like, the importance of which the false teachers were stressing and magnifying. All these things were good in their day, under the Old Law, as foreshadowing the reality to come, which was Christ; but now that Christ has come, these things are done away; they are a hindrance to be avoided.

The Vulgate sabbatorum is according to the Greek, but σαββατων, though plural in form, is singular in meaning (Matt 12:1; Mark 1:21, Mark 3:2; Luke 4:16, etc.).

Col 2:18. Let no man seduce you, willing in humility and religion of angels, walking in the things he hath seen, in vain puffed up by the sense of his flesh,
Col 2:19. And not holding the head, from which the whole body, by joints and bands, being supplied with nourishment and compacted, groweth unto the increase of God.

18-19. Here the Apostle admonishes the Colossians to beware of the pretentious humility and superstitious cult of angels advocated by the false teachers.

Let no man seduce, etc. Better, “let no one rob you of your prize,” i.e., of eternal life (see Phil. 3:14), by tempting you to forsake Christ.

Willing in humility, etc., i.e., delighting in an artificial, voluntary self-abasement and an obsequious service of angels. Those “heretics” taught that man was so miserable and far removed from God that intermediaries between him and God were necessary; and consequently to these intervening beings, whom they called angels, they attributed a part in the work of man’s creation and redemption which was as absurd as it was untrue.

Walking in the things, etc. More literally, “taking his stand on things he has seen,” i.e., preferring his alleged visions and revelations to the Apostolic Gospel. Such is the best reading of this passage, though other good authorities think a “not” has dropped out of the text before “seen,” and that we should read, “taking his stand on things he has not seen,” i.e., pretending to a knowledge of angels and of the spirit world which has no real basis. This is the reading followed by the Vulgate.

In vain puffed up, etc. Better, “foolishly puffed up with his fleshly mind.” The false teachers were full of pride, and, while alleging superior knowledge about spiritual things, their thoughts in reality were low and carnal, mere earthly dreams.

And not holding the head, etc., i.e., not keeping intimately united to Christ, the head of the Church, from whom the members derive their organic unity, power and growth.

From whom the whole body, etc. Better, “from whom the whole body, being supplied and knit together through the joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is of God.” The meaning is that all vital unity and spiritual growth among the members of the Church must come from Christ, who is the head of the Church and the only source of spiritual supply. See commentary on Eph. 4:16.

Col 2:20. If then thou be dead with Christ from the elements of this world, why are you under decrees as though living in the world?
Col 2:21. Touch not, taste not, handle not;
Col 2:22. Which are all unto destruction by the very use, according to the precepts and doctrines of men.

In verses 20-23 the Apostle shows the futility of the ascetical practices preached by the “heretics” at Colossse.

If then you are dead, etc. The connective “if” here, as later in Col 3:1, does not express doubt or conjecture, but rather assumption; it assumes the death in question to be a fact. Since the faithful in Baptism have mystically died with Christ and so have been freed “from the elements of this world” (see above, onC ol 2:8), why should they still continue to live as if subject to these ancient rites and ceremonies, which enjoined that they should “touch not, taste not, etc.” (Lev. 11:4 ff., 15:1 ff.)? These prohibitions, which the false teachers were endeavoring to enforce, did not affect permanent moral principles, but rather things material that perished with the using; and now that the Law of Moses has been abrogated, they have no divine authority or sanction, but are “according to the precepts and doctrines of men,” i.e., according to human opinions and human traditions.

Which are all unto destruction by the very use. This sentence is best treated as a parenthesis.

The quid decernitis of the Vulgate (ver. 20) is passive in Greek; hence we have rendered, “why are you under decrees?” The precepts of verse 21, ne tetigeritis, etc., are singular in Greek, which better expresses the ridiculousness of the practices for each individual.

Col 2:23. Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in superstition and humility, and not sparing the body; not in any honor to the filling of the flesh.

Which things, etc. These precepts and doctrines of the false teachers had an external appearance of wisdom by reason of the worship of angels, humility, and bodily rigor, which they superstitiously and pretentiously implied; but they were of no value with God, and rather tended to serve than to curb the full gratification of the passions of man, since they were only external and separated from the true source of all genuine spirituality, which is Christ.

Not in any honor, etc. Far better in the R. V., which reads: “Not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.” Such seems to be the meaning of a difficult verse, the text of which has probably been corrupted in transmission. See Knabenbauer, h. I.; also Sales, Moule, and Crafer in A New Com. on Holy Script., h. I.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Colossians Chapter 1

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 27, 2019

Text in red are my additions. Text in purple indicates quotations from Fr. Callan’s other commentaries.


A Summary of Colossians 1:1-8. Following his customary form, St. Paul, in company with Timothy, salutes the faithful of Colossae, assuring them of his constant prayers of thanksgiving to God in their behalf on account of their faith in Christ, their charity towards one another, and the consequent reward awaiting them hereafter. This hope of future blessedness came to them with the preaching of the Gospel truth; and with them as elsewhere, from the time of its first preaching, this worldwide message of salvation has yielded a great spiritual harvest. It was Epaphras, Paul’s beloved comrade, who preached the Gospel to the Colossians, and who has now brought news of them to him in Rome.

Col 1:1. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God, and Timothy the
Col 1:2. To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ, who are at Colossae.

For a nearly identical greeting see Eph 1:1. Father Callan translates that verse as follows: Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.

Father Callan goes on to give the following commentary on the following words and themes that the two passages share:

Paul. It is to be noted that, whereas in the other Captivity Epistles Timothy’s name is associated with Paul’s, here, as in Rom., Gal., and the Pastoral letters, only the name of Paul is mentioned. As Timothy had been with Paul at Ephesus and was therefore well known to the Ephesians, the omission of his name in the greeting of this Epistle is taken as an argument that the letter was not directed to the Church of Ephesus (see Introduction, No. IV).
Apostle, that is, a legate to whom is committed a mission with power and authority. Hence, the term implies more than messenger and it is applied in the New Testament to those who have been designated to preach the Gospel. By this title, therefore, Paul claims to be Christ’s legate, sent and commissioned by Christ to preach the Gospel. Thus, our Lord said : “As thou hast sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:18).

By the will of God, that is, Paul’s mission is both gratuitous and divine, and not the result of his own merits or choice. He has not taken the honor to himself, but has been called by God, as Aaron was (cf. Heb 5:4).

To all the Saints. The omnibus of the Vulgate is not represented in the Greek. “Saints,” that is, those who by Baptism have been consecrated to God and live in union with Jesus Christ. 

Timothy. See Introduction to 1 Tim., number I. Timothy was associated with Paul at this time in Rome, and probably he wrote down this letter as the Apostle dictated it.

Faithful brethren, i.e., fellow-Christians, who were full of active, living faith. See on Eph 1:1. Concerning the term faithful Father Callan wrote this in his Commentary on Epehsians 1:1~Faithful. This is a term frequently used by St. Paul. It designates those who with mind and heart have freely embraced the faith of Christ, subjecting themselves to His will and service.

Colossae. See Introduction, number I. Here is what Father Callan wrote concerning Colossae in his Introduction:

I. Colossae. Colossae was an ancient city of southwestern Phrygia in the Roman Province of Asia. It was situated in the valley of the Lycus River about one hundred and twenty miles east from Ephesus and on the great highway of trade between the East and the West of the ancient world. At one time it enjoyed considerable importance, but declined with the foundation and growth of Laodicea, some ten miles to the west, about the middle of the third century B.C. Besides the wealth and prosperity which developed in the closely adjacent Laodicea, other factors which contributed to the decline and ruin of Colossse were the earthquakes that repeatedly shook it and the fame and attractiveness of Hierapolis, the Sacred City, situated only thirteen miles to the northwest. Hierapolis, the birthplace of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus and the later residence of the Apostle Philip of Bethsaida, was a pleasure and health resort and a centre of pagan worship.

In the time of St. Paul Colossae was but a small town or mere village, lacking any special industry or commercial importance. Its inhabitants, therefore (largely Phrygian, intermingled with Greeks and some Jews), had more leisure time than was wholesome for their spiritual welfare: they talked and speculated too much, and so developed some erroneous doctrines by attempting to express Christian ideas in the terms and forms of philosophic and religious thought then current in Phrygia and in Asia Minor generally. Repeated raids and devastations by the Saracens during the seventh and eighth centuries completed the destruction of Colossae and the town became a heap of ruins. Nothing remains of it now. The Lycus still flows through the valley, but the city once overhanging it on the upper part of its course, and forever distinguished by the letter of St. Paul, has long ago ceased to exist.

In the Vulgate of verse 2 Jesu should be omitted, as in the Greek.

Col 1:3. Grace be to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. We give thanks to God, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,

Grace be to you and peace, etc. See on the same sentence in Eph 1:2. Here is what he wrote there:

Grace . . . peace. This is Paul’s usual salutation. Grace, God’s special help and favor, is the root and source of our supernatural union with Him and with Christ, and peace is the blessed fruit of that same union.

From God the Father, etc. In these words we have indicated the author and the fountain-head of the blessing which the Apostle imparts. Since the same divine favor is asked from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, we have here a proof of the divinity of our Lord: He and the Father are one (John 10:30).

And from the Lord Jesus Christ. There is nearly equal MSS. evidence for the omission or the retention of this phrase here, which is found in Eph 1:2,

We give thanks, etc. The meaning is that, as often as he and Timothy prayed, they gave thanks to God for the Colossians’ life of faith and love; or that, as often as they prayed for the Colossians, they thanked God for the spiritual benefits the latter enjoyed.

Col 1:4. Hearing your faith in Christ Jesus, and the love which you have towards all the saints,

The reason for his prayer of thanksgiving is now assigned, namely, the Colossians’ faith in Christ and their charity to their brethren.

Hearing, from Epaphras (see Col 1:8).

Col 1:5. For the hope that is laid up for you in heaven, which you have heard in the word of the truth of the gospel, 
Col 1:6
. Which is come unto you, as also it is in the whole world, and bringeth forth fruit and groweth, even as it doth in you, since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth

For the hope, etc., i.e., on account of the hope, etc. There is question here, not of hope, but of the object of hope, of the thing hoped for, the reward awaiting the faithful life hereafter; and so it is disputed whether St. Paul is thanking God for the reward in store for the virtues and good works of the Colossians, as well as for their faith and love, or whether this hoped-for reward is the basis and motive of their active faith and love. The former explanation seems to be the meaning here (cf. Knabenhauer, hoc loco).

Which you have heard, etc. Better, “whereof you have heard, etc.”

In the word, etc., i.e., in the announcement or preaching of the Gospel which was given them (Col 1:6), and which everywhere in the whole Roman world is a growing and fruit-bearing seed, as it has been with them ever since they first “heard and knew” (i.e., understood and recognized) “the grace of God” (i.e., the contents of the Gospel) “in truth” (i.e., as it is in reality).

Col 1:7. As you learned of Epaphras, our beloved fellow-servant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ,
Col 1:8. Who also hath manifested to us your love in the Spirit

Epaphras, a resident and perhaps also a native of Colossa; and, if not the founder of the Church there, at least one of the chief workers in it. He is mentioned below in Col 4:12 and in Phm 23. Tradition makes him the first Bishop of Colossae. It is unlikely that he is to be identified with Epaphroditus, spoken of in Philippians 2:25, 4:18, though his name is an abbreviation of the latter’s.

Fellow-servant, i.e., companion in the service of Christ, who preached the Gospel at Colossae, and who now has brought to Paul and his companions in Rome a report of the love the Colossians have for them.

The Jesus of the Vulgate (ver. 7) is not in the Greek.


A Summarry of Col 1:9-2:23~ The Apostle prays that the Colossians may grow in knowledge of God’s will and purpose in their regard, so as to be able to increase correspondingly the spiritual fruitfulness of their lives, aided by the strength He gives them. They must thank the Eternal Father who has made them members of His kingdom through the redemption wrought by His Son (Col 1:9-14). He next describes the person and work of Christ, who is the image of the unseen God, the Creator of all things, the Head of the Church, and the Saviour by whose redemptive merits all things have been reconciled to the Father (Col 1:15-20). May the Colossians show in their conduct the benefit of the redemption they have received by leading holy and blameless lives, which will be possible only if they hold fast to the faith preached to them, of which Paul is the minister (Col 1:21-23). The Apostle then explains his sufferings for Christ and his commission to preach to the whole world God’s age-old mystery, now made manifest to Christians through Christ, of uniting Jews and Gentiles in the one Church of Christ (Col 1:24-29) . This is why he prays for the unity, charity, and purity of faith of the Colossians, Laodiceans, and all who have not seen his face (Col 2:1-7).Let the Colossians be on their guard against false teachers among them, whose erroneous speculations will lead them away from Christ, their true head and redeemer (Col 2:8-15), and will plunge them into practices that are useless, false, and vain (Col 2:16-23). See Introduction, No. IV, B. Col 1:9-14


A Summary of Col 1:9-14~The report of the Colossians given to St. Paul by Epaphras has enabled the Apostle properly to direct his prayers for them. Accordingly he prays that they may receive a clearer knowledge of the divine will and purpose, to the end that they may lead lives more pleasing to God and more fruitful in good works, thus manifesting the results of the blessings of redemption they have received.

Col 1:9. Therefore we also, from the day that we heard it, cease not to pray for you, and to beg that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will, in all wisdom, and spiritual understanding:

Therefore, i.e., in view of the report given by Epaphras in the preceding verses 4-8.

We heard it, i.e., heard of their faith in Christ (ver. 4).

Cease not to pray, etc., means to pray frequently, as in Rom 1:9; 1 Thess 1:2, 2:13, 5:17; 2 Tim 1:3.

Wisdom is such an illumination of the mind as to enable the judgment to go back to the supreme cause of things, and, thus enlightened, to direct particular things to their proper ends (Cajetan).

Understanding is that perception of things which enables us rightly to grasp their nature and character, and thence to formulate rules for action. The term “spiritual” here qualifies both wisdom and understanding, showing the Spirit of God to be the source of both.

Col 1:10. That you may walk worthy of the Lord in all things pleasing: being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God:

This verse gives the purpose of the gifts just requested for the Colossians.

The Deo of the Vulgate should be Domino, according to the Greek.

Col 1:11. Strengthened with all might, according to the power of his glory, unto all patience and long-suffering with joy,

Besides a deeper knowledge of God’s will and divine mysteries, the Apostle asks that the Colossians may also be strengthened from on high, so as to be able to resist all their temptations and bear all their trials.

According to the power of his glory, i.e., in a manner worthy of His supreme nature as manifesting itself.

Unto all patience, etc., i.e., the effect of the divine power implored is to enable the faithful to bear their suffering and trials with a spirit of holy endurance and perseverance, and with a joyful heart. The phrase “with joy” more properly belongs to what immediately precedes than to what follows.

In the Vulgate we should read in omnem patientiam et longanimitatem, to agree with the Greek.

Col 1:12. Giving thanks to the Father, who hath made us worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light:

Giving thanks to the Father, etc., as becomes dutiful and grateful children whom the heavenly Father, the fountain and source of all blessings, has admitted to a share in the glorious inheritance of the saints, which is a life of grace here and eternal beatitude hereafter. This kingdom to which we are admitted in Baptism is “in light,” as opposed to the kingdom of darkness over which Satan presides (Eph 5:8, 6:12; 1 Thess 5:5; Rom 13:12).

The Deo of the Vulgate is not in the Greek.

Col 1:13. Who delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love,
Col 1:14. In whom we have redemption, the remission of sins:

13-14. These verses show how the Father has made us Christians “worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light.” It was by delivering us from the power of sin and Satan and making us members of the kingdom of His beloved Son, through the redeeming blood of that same divine Son.

Power of darkness, i.e., the dominion of Satan who rules that part of the world which has not been regenerated by Christ.

Delivered . . . translated. These verbs are aorist in Greek, the first expressing the negative and the second the positive aspect of the one and same process of regeneration and sanctification.

Kingdom means the Church Militant.

Son of his love is a Hebraism meaning beloved Son.

Per sanguinem eius of the Vulgate is not according to the best Greek MSS.; it was perhaps introduced here from Eph 1:7, which see.


A Summary of Col 1:15-23~In the preceding verses St. Paul has shown, against the false teachers who were trying to pervert the Colossians, what great blessings we owe to our Lord. And now in this section he goes further, and shows that Christ is the image of the invisible God, anterior to all creation; the Son in whom and by whom all things were created and are sustained. And not only is the Son the head of the universe, but He is also, in a very special manner, the head of the Church; in Him dwells the fullness of Divinity, and through His sacrificial death on the cross all things have been reconciled to the Father (ver. 15-20). The Colossians are included in this redemption, for they were formerly enemies of God, but have now been reconciled to the Father through the atoning death of the Son. The goal of this reconciliation was that they might be spotless before God here and now; and this they will continue to be, if only they hold fast to the faith which they have received, which is the same everywhere, and of which Paul is the minister (ver. 21-23).

Col 1:15. Who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature:

Verses 15-20 here are the most important part of the present Epistle. They constitute a compendium of Christology, and, taken in conjunction with Eph. 1:20-23, Phil 2:6-1 1 and Heb 1:1 ff., they represent St. Paul’s most sublime writings relative to the person and dignity of Christ (Sales, hoc loco).

Who is the image, etc., i.e., the inward utterance and perfect expression of His Father, the Word of God (Rickaby, hoc loco). Christ is the substantial and perfect image of the Eternal Father, having the same divine nature and essence and having been begotten as the Eternal Son of the Father from eternity: “Philip, he that seeth me, seeth the Father also” (John 14:9).

The first-born of every creature, i.e., born of the Eternal Father from eternity, as is clear from the two following verses.

Col 1:16. For in him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominations or principalities, or powers—all things were created by him and unto him.

That the Son was begotten before all ages, before anything was created or made, is now proved; “for in him,” as effects are in their cause, “were all things created,” i.e., produced and brought into being; which shows that He existed prior to and above all creation, all succession, all becoming.

In heaven and on earth, etc., i.e., everything in the whole created universe was made by the Son. To emphasize his doctrine against the false teachers who were denying Divinity to the Son and maintaining a chain of angelic mediators between God and the world, the Apostle repeats at the end of the verse that “all things were created by him,” as by their first cause, “and unto him” (εἰς αυτω= eis auto),i.e., for Him, as their final cause and goal. (Some manuscripts read εν = en in place of εἰς = eis).  Eis is the more probable here because it indicates motion towards or into (unto) a goal, whereas en usually indicates locality of place or time. The difference can be seen in Mt 2:1~”When Jesus therefore was born in (en = locality of place) Bethlehem of Juda, in (en = locality of time) the days of king Herod, behold, there came wise men from the East to (eis) Jerusalem.”

Thrones, dominations, etc. See on Eph 1:21. That verse reads: Above all principality, and power, and virtue, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. Commenting on it Fr. Callan writes: The Apostle here mentions four orders or classes or choirs of celestial beings above which Christ in heaven is said to be exalted (cf. 1 Peter 3:22, and below, Eph 3:10). In Col. 1:16, we have a parallel passage where St. Paul adds the order of “thrones,” but omits the order of “virtue” here mentioned. In that passage the thought is that Christ in His pre-existent glory and divinity is the Creator of those angelic beings; whereas here His Headship over them is the dominant thought. The division of angels into nine orders and three hierarchies is due to the Pseudo-Dionysius in his book On the Celestial Hierarchy, a notable work which first appeared about 500 a.d., but which from then on exercised a great influence till the close of the Middle Ages.

Col 1:17. And he is before all, and in him all things consist.

To stress the pre-existence and pre-eminence as well as the creative power of Christ, the Apostle here repeats against the false teachers that the Son was prior and superior to all created things, and that all were not only created by Him, but are maintained in their existence by Him.

Consist. Better, “stand together,” hang together, cohere; all things were created by the Word, and all continue in existence and are conserved by Him.

The Vulgate ante omnes should be ante omnia, denoting all creation, as in the Greek.

Col 1:18. And he is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead ; that in all things he may hold the primacy;

Christ is not only the creator and conserver of all things in the universe, but He is also the creator of the new spiritual order of things inasmuch as He has repaired and redeemed all things; for He is the Founder and Head of that mystical body which is His Church (see on Eph 1:22). That passage reads: And he hath subjected all things under his feet, and hath made him head over all the church. Commenting on it Fr. Callan writes: And he hath subjected, etc. An allusion to Ps. 8:8, where man is described as the crown of the visible world (cf. 1 Cor. 15:26 ff.; Heb. 2:8 ff).

And hath made him head, etc. The Greek reads : “And gave him to the Church head over all.” The words “over all” show the dignity and excellence of Christ whom the eternal Father has given to the Church as its head. Our Lord made St. Peter the visible head of the Apostolic College and of the Church, but He Himself ever remains the supreme head, not only of the Church Militant, but likewise of the Church Suffering and the Church Triumphant.

Who is the beginning, i.e., the efficient cause and creator of that organization which is the Church; He is the fountain and author of grace and glory.

The first-bom from the dead, i.e., the first in time to be raised from death to a glorious and immortal life, thus becoming the principle and model of the final resurrection of all who belong to Him. Just above, in ver. 15-16, it was said that Christ was the “first-born” of all things in general, that is, the creator of all, and here it is said that He is the “first-bom” of His redeemed creation. In both orders, the natural and the supernatural. He holds “the primacy” of power and dignity; He is the creator of all things in the natural order, and He is the redeemer and saviour of all in the supernatural order of grace and glory.

Col 1:19. Because in him, it hath well pleased the Father, that all the fullness should dwell;

Here and in the following verse the Apostle further shows how the Word holds the primacy in all things. First, “because in him, etc.,” i.e., at the time of the Incarnation it pleased the Father, or God, that “all the fullness” of Divinity, and consequently of grace and truth (John 1:14), through the hypostatic union of the divine and human natures in the one Person of the Word, should take up its permanent abode in Christ.

The Father is not expressed in Greek, but it is most natural to take it as the subject of the verb “hath well pleased” in view of the subject in verses 12 and 13 and the context of verses 15-18.

Fullness, i.e., plenitude, totality—”the fullness of the Godhead,” as it is expressed in 2:9 below. See on Eph 1:23. On that verse Fr. Callan wrote: The fullness of him, i.e., the totality or completion of Christ, or that which renders Christ complete. The Greek word πληρωμα (fullness) here is obscure and has received various explanations, the most probable of which we have just given in the preceding sentence. The Church is the body of Christ, and Christ is the head of the Church. From this union of head and body there results one whole, which is the mystical Christ. The Church, therefore, the body of Christ, completes Christ; or, to put it in another way, Christ, the head of the Church, is completed by the Church. In other words, as in the human body the members are the completion or complement of the head, since without them the head could not exercise the different actions, so the Church, which is the body of Christ, is the complement of Christ the head, because without it Christ would not be able to exercise His office of Redeemer and Sanctifier of souls.

Should dwell. The Greek implies permanency of dwelling.

Col 1:20. And through him to reconcile all things unto himself (eis auton), making peace through the blood of his cross, both as to the things that are on earth, and the things that are in heaven.

In the second place, it has pleased God the Father “through him” (i.e., through Christ) “to reconcile all things unto himself” (cf. Rom 5:10; 2 Cor 5:18, 19). These references to Romans and 2 Corinthians show that we should understand eis auton (“unto himself”) here to mean the Father rather than the Son.

Making peace through the blood of his cross. The meaning is that through the sacrificial death of the Son on the cross peace was effected with the Eternal Father (cf. Rom 5).

Both as to the things that are on the earth, etc. See on Eph 1:10. The Apostle is stressing the point here, against the false teachers at Colossae, that Christ is the one and only medium of reconciling with the Father all things, spiritual and material, human and angelic. Men, indeed, needed reconciliation in the strict sense of the word; but as regards the material creation and the angelic world see on Eph 1:10. Here, however, there is no question of reconciling men and angels with one another, but of reconciling all with God the Father. Therefore, to explain how the sacrificial death of Christ effected reconciliation and peace between the angelic world and the Father some have had recourse to the meaning of  Eph 3:10, and explain the difficulty in the sense of that passage. Thus, men are really cleansed and restored to divine favor, while angels acquire greater knowledge and joy as a result of man’s salvation (so Knabenbauer, hoc loco). Others think that reconciliation, as applied here to angelic beings, must be taken in a wide sense, meaning that Christ’s propitiation brought the world of angels into closer union with God, thus making them less alien than they had been before that august event (so Alford, Moule, etc.).

Col 1:21. And you, whereas you were some time alienated and enemies in mind in evil works,

In verses 21-23 St. Paul applies to the Colossians what he has been saying in general regarding the redemptive work of Christ. Formerly, in their pagan state, they also had been alienated from God; their mental attitude was hostile to Him, as was proved by their evil deeds. But now they have been reconciled to the Father through the atoning sufferings and death on the cross of God’s only Son.

Col 1:22. Yet now he hath reconciled you in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unspotted, and blameless before him:

In the body of his flesh, etc., i.e., in His own mortal, passible body, as distinguished from His mystical body, the Church: “For God indeed was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, etc.” (2 Cor 5:19).

To present you holy, etc. The purpose of this reconciliation was the sanctification of the Colossians, so that they might appear in the sight of God here and now free from vice of every kind and adorned with all virtues.

Col 1:23. If so ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and immovable from the hope of the gospel which you have heard, which is preached in all the creation that is under heaven, whereof I Paul am made a minister.

Here the Apostle tells the Colossians that they will continue in their holy state only if they preserve unsullied the faith which they have received from Epaphras, and which is the same as that preached everywhere else by St. Paul and his disciples.

Grounded and settled, etc. See on Eph 3:17Father Callan wrote the following on that verse, which reads: “That Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts; that being rooted and founded in charity.”

By faith, i.e., by means of an implicit trust in all that has been revealed, and this, not merely by a speculative adhesion of the mind to revealed truth, but by a practical exercise in works of what one believes, by a faith that lives by charity: “If any one love me, he will keep my word, etc.” (John 14:23 ff.).

Being rooted, like a tree of the Lord in the rich soil of the love of God, and founded, like stones of the Temple on the same love.

In charity. It is disputed whether these words should go with what precedes or with what follows ; and also whether there is question of God’s love for Christians or of the love Christians have for God. As to the first point, it seems that the participles “rooted” and “founded” need determination, and therefore that the phrase “in charity” should go with them. As to the second point, since the Apostle is praying that his readers may understand Christ’s love for them, and since love is perceived by love and the more Christ is loved the better He is understood, it would seem that the words “in charity” ought to refer to the love Paul’s readers have for Christ. 

The hope of the Gospel, which is eternal salvation.

Which is preached, etc. St. Paul wants to assure the Colossians that the Gospel they have heard is the same as the authentic Gospel preached elsewhere.

Whereof I am made the minister. Some think these words were added to show the identity between the Gospel preached by Paul and that delivered by Epaphras; but it is more likely that they were intended as a link between what the Apostle has been saying and what he is about to say regarding his work in behalf of the pagans.


A Summary of Colossians 1:24-29~Paul tells the Colossians that he is suffering on their account, but that this is a source of joy to him since his afflictions help the Church to contribute her part toward the sufferings of Christ; for God has commissioned him a servant of the Church for the purpose of making known the long-hidden mystery that Gentiles, as well as Jews, are to be embraced in the one Church of Christ, thus becoming heirs of heavenly glory. This is the universal doctrine St. Paul proclaims, laboring and striving with the help of divine power.

Col 1:24. Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church.

The qui (“who rejoice”)  of the Vulgate at the beginning of this verse is not supported by the best Greek MSS.  St. Paul will explain in the verses that follow (up to Col 2:3 inclusive), why he is writing to a Church he has not founded, nor ever visited.

Now I rejoice, etc. The Apostle is in prison for preaching to pagans the same Gospel that the Colossians have received, and he rejoices on their behalf, because of the spiritual benefits his afflictions bring to them and to the Church.

Fill up those things, etc. Better, “fill up on my part (ανταναπληρω) those things, etc.” The Apostle does not mean to say that his labors and sufferings on behalf of the Gospel added anything to the efficacy and satisfactory value of Christ’s atoning sacrifice and death on the cross, which, being superabundant and infinite, were more than sufficient for the redemption of all mankind, and of many more worlds than ours (St. Thomas). But by “the sufferings of Christ” he means here the fatigue, labors, persecutions, and the like, endured by our Lord in His public life and ministry, which, as they were the lot of Christ, the head, during His brief mortal existence, must also be the lot of His mystical body, the Church, till the end of time; it is these sufferings of Christ’s mystical body that must be supplied by the Apostles and their true followers throughout the history of the Church. Our Lord labored, preached and suffered for a time for the spread of the Gospel, and His Church must continue through its ministers to labor, to preach and to suffer for all time for the same purpose, thus vicariously supplying to the ministry of Christ what was not possible for our Lord in person to supply. This is the obvious and natural meaning of this great passage. But the Greek Fathers explain it otherwise. Admitting that the passion of our Lord was entirely sufficient to save all mankind, they hold that its fruits are not applied to all except through the sufferings of the saints; and hence what is “wanting of the sufferings of Christ” is their application through the trials and tribulations which the Apostles and the faithful endured and continue to endure for Christ’s sake and in union with Him.

In my flesh, i.e., in St. Paul’s own body. The Apostle endured in his own body and person many grievous sufferings and afflictions for the sake of the Gospel and the Church.

Col 1:25. Whereof I am made a minister according to the dispensation of God, which is given me towards you, that I may fulfill the word of God,

Whereof, i.e., on behalf of which, namely, the Church, he has been “made a minister,” or servant, “according to the dispensation,” or stewardship, committed to him by God Himself for the benefit of the Colossians, as of all other pagans. The Colossians were embraced by Paul’s ministry, for to him it was given to “fulfill the word of God,” i.e., to spread the teachings of the Gospel, to found Churches etc. everywhere, especially among the Gentiles (Rom 15:19; 1 Cor 14:36; 2 Cor  2:7), that he might “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (ver. 28).

Col 1:26. The mystery which hath been hidden from ages and generations, but now is manifested to his saints,

The mystery, i.e., the “word of God,” or the teaching of the Gospel, spoken of in the preceding verse. This mystery, or secret, undiscoverable by natural means, was the salvation of all men. Gentiles as well as Jews, through Christ and the revelation made by Him, and the union of all men in the one Church of Christ. See on Eph 3:2-9. For commentary on those verses go here.

To his saints, i.e., the faithful, both of Jewish and pagan origin.

Col 1:27. To whom God hath willed to make known the riches of the glory of this ministry among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

To whom God hath willed, etc. These words show that the revelation of the great secret was a free and gratuitous act on the part of God.

The riches of the glory, etc., i.e., the wealth of divine goodness and mercy which has been manifested in the conversion of the Gentiles even more than in that of the Jews, for the latter had a revelation of the Messiah to come and of a future life.

Which is Christ, i.e., this mystery or the riches of this mystery is all in Christ, in whom are contained all the divine counsels regarding human salvation and all the blessings promised to man.

In you, i.e., among you, and in your hearts by faith (Eph 2:12 ff.).

The hope of glory, i.e., Christ is their and our hope of glory and eternal beatitude; He is the author and source of all good for time and eternity.

In the Vulgate there should be no comma after Christus, but one may be placed after vobis.

Col 1:28. Whom we preach, admonishing every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.

Such is the Christ whom St. Paul and his companions preach, the sole and all- sufficient author and means of salvation here and of future blessedness hereafter, whose hidden mystery has been made known to all men for the salvation of all. The Apostle is criticizing the false teachers at Colossae who were insisting on the necessity of legal prescriptions, on an exaggerated cult of angels, and on an initiation into perfection which was confined to a select few.

Every man. St. Paul repeats these words three times in this verse in order to stress the universality of salvation for all, Gentiles as well as Jews.

In all wisdom may mean, (a) that St. Paul and his helpers corrected faults and explained doctrine with all the knowledge with which they were endowed, or (b) that they disciplined and instructed every man in a perfect knowledge of God, so as to enable each one to live a life worthy of God.

That we may present, etc. The scope of Apostolic discipline and teaching was to make every man perfect in the faith and love of Christ.

Col 1:29. Wherein also I labor, striving according to his working which he worketh in me in power.

Here the Apostle tells us that the end and purpose of all his labors and struggles, like those of an athlete in the arena, was to render every man perfect in Christ, and that the secret of his endurance and success was to be found, not in his own strength and merits, but in the grace of Christ which was efficacious in him.

Striving. The Greek of this word contains a reference to the contest of the athletes in the arena. Cf. 2 Tim 2:9; 2 Tim 4:7.

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Father Callan’s Introduction to Colossians

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 27, 2019


I The City of Colassae:

Colossae was an ancient city of southwestern Phrygia in the Roman Province of Asia. It was situated in the valley of the Lycus River about one hundred and twenty miles east from Ephesus and on the great highway of trade between the East and the West of the ancient world. At one time it enjoyed considerable importance, but declined with the foundation and growth of Laodicea, some ten miles to the west, about the middle of the third century B.C. Besides the wealth and prosperity which developed in the closely adjacent Laodicea, other factors which contributed to the decline and ruin of Colossse were the earthquakes that repeatedly shook it and the fame and attractiveness of Hierapolis, the Sacred City, situated only thirteen miles to the northwest. Hierapolis, the birthplace of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus and the later residence of the Apostle Philip of Bethsaida, was a pleasure and health resort and a centre of pagan worship.

In the time of St. Paul Colossae was but a small town or mere village, lacking any special industry or commercial importance. Its inhabitants, therefore (largely Phrygian, intermingled with Greeks and some Jews), had more leisure time than was wholesome for their spiritual welfare: they talked and speculated too much, and so developed some erroneous doctrines by attempting to express Christian ideas in the terms and forms of philosophic and religious thought then current in Phrygia and in Asia Minor generally. Repeated raids and devastations by the Saracens during the seventh and eighth centuries completed the destruction of Colossae and the town became a heap of ruins. Nothing remains of it now. The Lycus still flows through the valley, but the city once overhanging it on the upper part of its course, and forever distinguished by the letter of St. Paul, has long ago ceased to exist.

II. The Church of Colossae.

Since in the time of St. Paul the town of Colossse was far inferior in wealth, population and general importance to the neighboring cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis, one may naturally ask why he addressed an Epistle thither. It was doubtless the least important place to which the Apostle ever wrote any of his letters that have come down to us. Nor had he ever been there himself, as seems clear from Col. 1:4, 6-8, 2:1. In his journeys from the East through Asia Minor to the West it appears that he always kept to the “upper coasts” (Acts 19:1), following the Cayster route, which was shorter, and so easier for foot travelers like himself. Why, then, this Epistle to Colossae, and not to Laodicea or Hierapolis? The obvious and chief explanation seems to lie in the fact that Colossae was the home of Epaphras, Philemon and Onesimus, three special friends of St. Paul. Political and commercial relations were close between Colossae and Ephesus, and it must be that Epaphras and Philemon had come in contact with Paul and had been converted by him early during the Apostle’s sojourn in the latter city. These two then carried the faith back to Colossae, their own city. In fact, it seems clear from Col. 1:7, 8 that Epaphras became the founder of the Church in his native town; and from Phlm. 2, 3 it is plain that Philemon actively co-operated in propagating the new religion, even lending the use of his own house for the gatherings of the faithful. Onesimus, Philemon’s runaway slave, met St. Paul in Rome, and was converted by him shortly before the writing of this Epistle.

Moreover, the errors combated in this Epistle, though doubtless not confined to Colossae, appear to have been especially prevalent there, owing to its situation on the great highway of trade, and in particular to the comparatively leisurely life of its people. It is true that Laodicea was similarly situated, but its much greater population and intensive life of business allowed less time for the simmering of new thoughts and new ideas and the development of fanciful theories in religious matters. But the letter to Colossae and the ministry of Epaphras were by no means to be confined to the one town, but were to be extended to Laodicea and to the whole Lycus valley. It is reasonably certain that Epaphras evangelized that entire district, for St. Paul expressly says of him: “I bear him testimony that he hath much labor for you, and for them that are at Laodicea, and them at Hierapolis” (Col. 4:13). St. Paul also expressly ordered that this letter be read in the Church of Laodicea (Col. 4:16).

Another reason why this letter was sent to Colossse, rather than to the larger and more important city of Laodicea, is that very probably our Epistle to the Ephesians was in reality sent to the Laodiceans, and that St. Paul was referring to it in Col. 4:16. This probability we have already discussed in the Introduction to Ephesians, No. 4.

III. The Occasion and Purpose of This Letter.

From what has been said already, we can see how the new religion was likely to spread apace in Colossae, and how, owing to the character of its mixed population, there might be dangers to the purity and integrity of the faith there. And so it happened, as a matter of fact. Conditions became in a few years so serious that, when St. Paul was a prisoner in Rome the first time, Epaphras, the founder and head of the Church of Colossae (Col. 1:7-8, 4:12-13), deemed it necessary to go all the way to the Eternal City for the purpose of explaining the situation to the great leader and master.

Of course, the report given by Epaphras of Colossian conditions was not at all one of entire complaint and apprehensiveness; for the charity and faith of the Church as a whole were sufficiently encouraging to evoke St. Paul’s express commendation (Col. 1:8, 2:5). But false teachers had appeared and were sowing the seeds of doctrines which, if not checked, would imperil the faith they had received in its purity from their founder and his co-workers.

Just who these false teachers were and what their doctrines were in detail it is extremely difficult to determine; a multitude of conflicting opinions have been advanced. From the Epistle (Col. 2:8-23), however, we can gather the main outlines of the errors in question. In the first place, there were Judaizers who, perhaps claiming a higher way of perfection, wished to introduce the observance of the Law of Moses and rabbinical traditions, such as the ordinances regarding Sabbaths, new moons, etc., and the prohibition to eat, drink, taste, or even touch certain things, on the assumption that matter is evil. On the other hand, there were errors of a semi-Gnostic type tending to detract from the dignity of Christ, holding that the angels were superior or at least equal to Him, and that we must have access to God through them. All these errors were of Jewish origin, as the best Catholic and non-Catholic scholars agree, and as is plain from the allusions to Jewish observances, feasts, regulations, and the like.

Now, St. Paul wrote the present letter to correct such pernicious teachings and to give the faithful of Colossae a true conception of Christian life and practice, based on a correct understanding of the relation of Christ to God, to the universe, and to the Church. This he does first by a clear presentation of the true doctrine about Christ, which robbed the false teachers of the very foundation of their errors. Christ, he says, is our Redeemer and Saviour; He is the image of the invisible God; all things have been made in Him and by Him, and all consist in Him; He is the first-born from the dead, the head of the Church, and He exercises primacy over all things; He is the universal Mediator through whom alone peace and reconciliation have come to all; He is the explanation and the consummation of all God’s dealings and mysterious dispensations and the hope of our future glory (Col. 1:14-27); in Christ, finally, are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3-7). Thus, by a positive teaching of the truth does St. Paul attempt, in the first place, to correct the false doctrines that were spreading among the faithful of Colossse. His method of correction, in the second place, is by attacking more directly their errors, showing the futility and emptiness of a false ethical system which they vainly tried to dignify as a “philosophy” (Col. 2:8-23). All this will more clearly appear from an examination of the contents of the Epistle.

IV. Analysis of Contents. 

The Epistle to the Colossians is divided into four parts: an introduction (Col 1:1-8), a dogmatico-polemical part (Col 1:9—2:23), a moral part (Col 3:1—4:6), and a conclusion (Col 4:7-18).

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